Within months of the coronavirus pandemic and the early stages of the lockdown, experts started to write articles about the emotional and mental health impact on society.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and as the month closes in on us, it’s worth reviewing how important it is to remain vigilant and help those in distress. This is particularly true for young people who face the “usual” pressures of youth, now compounded by the coronavirus.
The statistics related to mental health are grim, especially among young people.
Depression is the most common mental health disorder among American teens and adults.
More than 2.8 million young people, ages 12 to 17, experience an annual episode of depression.
10 to 15% of teenagers exhibit at least one symptom of depression at any time.
- About 5% percent of teenagers exhibit symptoms of major depression at any time.
Teenagers who suffer from depression often turn to substance and alcohol abuse, social isolation, poor academic and workplace performance, unnecessary risk-taking and early pregnancy. Finally, it can lead to suicide, the third leading cause of death among teenagers. About 20% of teenagers contemplate suicide and one in 12 attempts it.
As a legislator, I believe that a significant step in protecting our children is a screening process that will help identify those at risk. That’s why I have introduced Senate Bill No. S2259, which requires public schools to administer written screens for depression for students in specific grades.
Detecting and diagnosing depression early on is a crucial step in keeping the illness from increasing. We can accomplish this with a written test administered to all children, grades seven through 12, in our public school system. This is a workable approach that is not difficult to implement and provides the first line of defense and detection to help young people that are so vulnerable.
And while my bill focuses on young people, everyone is potentially at risk, whether it’s family, friends or fellow employees.
What can you do? You can do plenty. It doesn’t take much to see or sense that a person is working through a difficult patch. Just ask, “You seem troubled, can I help?” This is especially true if the person is a teenager. The words you use might be different, but if you intend to help, you’ll be understood.
“Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way,” according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. “Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.” For more information, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
In these troubling times, when you spot someone who appears to be struggling, just ask in a caring way if you can help. You might be the helping hand they’re searching for even if they don’t know it. And you might even save a life.
That’s my take, what’s yours?