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Healthier Together - Preventing teen suicide

Posted at 10:44 AM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 14:45:11-04

In 2019, suicide was the #1 cause of death for our youth ages 10-17.

“There are a number of factors that contribute to rising rates of suicide among our youth,” says Fayth Dickenson, Behavioral Health Manager for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah.

Dickenson says substance abuse, bullying and increased use of social media are all possible factors.

“Youth with a lack of access to care are also at a higher risk, whether that is geographic, financial or due to other barriers such as stigma… and honestly, the teen years are a stressful time filled with major physical and emotional changes that can cause feelings of confusion, fear and doubt," says Dickenson.

Add in isolation due to the on-going pandemic, and it’s the perfect storm for mental health issues in teens.

Nationwide, data on teen suicide deaths is still being collected for 2020, but the CDC reported a 21 percent increase in mental health related ER visits, including suicide attempts in 2020 compared to 2019.

“Asking someone directly about suicide will not increase their risk or plant the idea. It will create the opportunity to offer support and let them know you care enough to ask,” says Dickenson.

She says to offer a listening ear, without judgment and watch out for these signs:

  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Acting out behaviors
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Problems focusing
  • Speaking about death or dying

Dickenson says, “It’s so important for parents, teachers and other adults to have conversations about mental health and mental well-being with teens.”

She also says it’s important to tech your kids that it’s okay to need help, and that they’re not alone and that there is help out there, like counseling and behavioral health treatment.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help available. The national suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also text ‘HOME’ to 741741 for help anytime.