The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on children’s mental health.
According to a Mental Health America report, the rate of children ages 11 through 17 who were screened last year for anxiety and depression was 9% higher than it was in 2019.
In an effort to help children experiencing behavioral health issues, Children’s Health will continue to offer its School-Based TeleBehavioral health program in more than 200 schools across North Texas to provide access to behavioral health clinicians during the summer break.
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Over the summer, the continuation of the program means children can continue the vital services or even begin to receive help from home.
Doctors said suicide and suicide attempts among children have been on the rise since 2008, but recently the number of emergency room visits has doubled.
Economic and family stressors and isolation, all related to the pandemic, could be factors.
"Depression is up. Anxiety is up. Intentional self-harm, suicidal behavior with a plan, those numbers of are very high," said Dr. Betsy Kennard, Program Director of Suicide Prevention and Resilience at Childrens (SPARC) and Professor in Psychiatry at UT Southwestern.
The crisis is widespread.
Cook Children's in Fort Worth reported last month that suicide was now the leading cause of trauma deaths at their hospital, surpassing child abuse and car crashes.
The hospital has treated children as young as 7 years old.
Many children are desensitized by images they see on the internet and social media.
Suicide prevention organizations like the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation hear from parents every day.
"I had one dad the other day tell me, 'Well, I really want to be able to trust my children,'" the foundation's executive director Christina George said. "We have to think about our kids. They’re impulsive. Their frontal lobes are not fully developed and sure, it’s OK to trust your children, but can you trust what they’re seeing behind their screen."
The organization offers free virtual training, called QPR, for anyone who wants tools to identify at-risk individuals and prevent suicide.
QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer, the three simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide.
Just as people trained in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver help save thousands of lives each year, people trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help.
Cook Children's Hospital has also launched a suicide prevention campaign with valuable resources for families.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741.