The most recent data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey reveals 17 percent of American teens considered suicide in 2017; in Iowa, it was 20 percent.
The numbers show a steady increase in suicides and depression over the past decade. How to prevent those issues is this week’s Mental Wellness Wednesday.
“We do have an epidemic of suicide and an increase in depression, especially with our kids, including suicidal thoughts and behavior,” Rashel Bark with the Siouxland Mental Health Center said.
Bark was one of three mental health panelist on KCAU 9’s Special Town Hall discussion last week, designed to help everyone learn how to identify the signs that someone might be in trouble.
“If you see personality changes, if you see a child acting defiant, disagreeable with things, disorganized that’s different than their normal self, those are concerning,” Albert Okine, a Certified Psychiatric P.A. with Dr. Dean & Associates said.
Teachers are always on the look out for those warning signs, in part thanks to new training for all staff at the Sioux City School District.
“Kids let us know when something is going on, students let us know through their work,” West High School Counselor Bernie Scolaro said. “Suddenly they’re not showing up to class on time, they’re truant, they’re not talking to the teacher like they were, they’re not involved in the same activities they were prior, maybe they’re changing friends, maybe they’re acting out, talking back to the teacher.”
If you notice any of these changes in behavior in your loved ones or friends, its important to reach out for help right away.
“Intervening earlier is better,” Bark said. “We intervene at the Mental Health Center on various levels of crisis, some people saying I am suicidal now and I feel like I want to die today. So we have significant interventions at that point that we’re doing some crisis counseling and possible hospitalization at that point.”
Its why mental health professionals say its best to try and address any behavioral concerns or changes as soon as possible, well before the child reaches a crisis point.
“Therapists are a good starting place where they can spend time with the child and be able to identify if this is really an issue,” Okine said.
There is much more to this conversation from our full KCAU 9 Digital Town Hall: Becoming a Lifeline. You can watch it here.