The effects of the pandemic on our overall mental health have been well documented, and as we enter September, National Suicide Prevention Month, there’s good cause to take a closer look.
Surprisingly, suicides decreased by six percent nationally in 2020 (source: Healthline). This runs counter to well-documented increases in nearly every other mental health category as we were all challenged by increased isolation. The prevailing theory around the decrease is that despite our physical separation, watershed events like the COVID-19 pandemic often result in an increase in our overall sense of community.
Not all the news is good, however. The CDC reports that from mid-2020 through early 2021, emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among teens, especially girls, showed a sharp increase. In February and March of 2021, the incidence of those visits was more than 50% higher than for the same period two years prior. Clearly, the pandemic has taken a toll on our teens.
The National Suicide Prevention Month website asks us all to #Bethe1To:
Ask. People with suicidal thoughts feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way.
Be there. People are likely to feel less depressed and isolated when someone listens to them without judgment.
Keep them safe. A simple but effective means for reducing suicides is to remove weapons and other possible lethal means.
Help them stay connected. Helping someone at risk to create a network of individuals to support them can encourage them to take positive action.
Follow up. Studies demonstrate that supportive, ongoing contact following an individual’s release from care can make a difference in suicide prevention.
By being alert to the mental health of those around you, and especially teens, you can make a difference.