I was driving home listening to a news story about a teenager who committed suicide. The teenager’s father was being interviewed and was making the passionate plea to other parents because he and his wife had very few indicators that their son was depressed and was about to commit suicide. He focused on the many of his son’s past losses; friends, school and playing football. All of these things were taken away because of COVID-19. It was truly a tragic story and my heart went out to this family.
Any parent listening to this story could easily be panicked because the indications were that these parents were completely blindsided by their son’s suicide. I have great empathy and sadness for any family who has lost their child due to suicide.
This incident made me follow-up with my own search for rates regarding frequency of suicide among youth. In an article in the MD Edge, Dr. David C. Rettew reviewed the current research and found that suicide rates among youth have seen little or no increase during COVID-19. We all recognized that suicide rates were rising prior to the pandemic and although there have been some isolated surges in attempts and incidences of suicide, it appears from the current research, suicide rates among teenagers have levelled. That being said it is still the second largest cause of death in teenagers. Thus, we still need to be vigilant to communicate with our teenagers and check in on their mental health.
Another point Dr. Bettew made is that because we are more aware of the mental health issues related to COVID-19 we are more prone to get help prior to a serious mental health episode. Therefore, more teenagers are getting help earlier which is a good proactive step.
For parents and caregivers who want to know how to discuss these issues with their teen, you can also review the article by Beth Daley on how to have honest and healthy conversations about suicide with your teenager. It is a succinct and helpful article that gives informative and practical advice for parents. Here is a quote from this article:
Many parents wonder what they should know about teen suicide and what they can do to prevent it. With a better understanding of suicide, and with teenagers spending more time at home, we believe that parents can engage in an honest and safe conversation about suicide with their kids.
The rest of the article provides a good resource for parents. As we continue to navigate the mental angst of COVID-19 within our families, we need to be in conversation about our mental health needs. We cannot raise awareness enough so that we can proactively deal with some of the effects of this pandemic on our kids. I hope these resources will be helpful as you consider managing your family and others that you encounter.