Attempted suicide rates up among kids in Cabell County

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 9:13 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on Americans’ mental health. The West Virginia State Board of Education reported a spike in attempted suicides by school children, especially in Cabell County.

With kids out of the classroom, they’re at home often -- alone for hours on end. Add in the stress of trying to complete assignments on virtual platforms and troubleshooting technology problems, and kids are undeniably dealing with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, said Melanie Pinkerman with Cabell County Schools

“Humans are not meant to be isolated. Middle and high school age is the most crucial time when they need time with their peers,” Pinkerman said.

An increase in anxiety rates is worrying mental health experts, saying it could drive a spike in attempted youth suicide rates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nationally the rate of suicide among those ages 10 to 24 increased by nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018. The rise occurred in most states, with 42 experiencing significant increases.

The rising attempts have been heightened by the coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC reports one in four people said they had suicidal thoughts within the past 30 days.

“Suicide prevention is a responsibility for everyone. We all need to be aware of what to look out for, and link someone to help they need,” said Barri Faucett, director of Prevent Suicide West Virginia. “It’s also within the capability of anyone to help.”

Faucett emphasized suicide prevention is a complex topic but, as a parent, the biggest red flags to watch out for is “change.”

“Suicide is a complex, multifaceted topic. The biggest thing is change. It could be a change in sleeping or eating patterns, isolation, increased aggression, or irritability. But these are also all things found in teenagers,” Faucett said.

Mental health experts encourage parents to sit down with their children to have a conversation and check in on them using a three-word question.

“Just the simple question of ‘Are you OK?” Pinkerman said. “The majority of the time, when you ask that one question, people will pour their heart out to you. They’ll say ‘I’m overwhelmed with the pandemic, or the amount of school work, or everything that’s going on in the country.’ ”

The West Virginia DHHR also added a children’s crisis and referral line just last month where families can call, text, or chat 24 hours a day seven days a week.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night or chat online.

Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, confidential support when you dial 741741.

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