How Parents Can Be Active In Youth Mental Health
Suicide is a top five cause of death in adolescents and teens in the United States. Terry Thomas, psychologist at Healthpoint Center, informs parents on suicide statistics, risk factors, and resources to provide education on mental health.
On teen suicide and common risk factors
It’s the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10-24. It results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year. The deaths from youth suicide are only part of the problem, though. More young people survive suicide attempts instead of die. In a nationwide study of high school students in the United States, 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reported trying to take their own life within the 12 months preceding the survey.
In children and adolescents, depressive symptoms can manifest in different ways that aren’t obvious. It's important for parents to be educated and understand risk factors by talking to them about acute changes in their child's emotional state or behavior.
On determining if behavorial changes are normal or a sign of depression
Depending on the developmental stage of the young person, changes and erratic behavior is normative along the way. However, if its incongruent with what you know about your child it may require some attention. You may see an acute drop in functioning such as: a decline in school performance, social isolation from peers, sleep and eating patterns, and irritable moods. In order to help your child, keep the lines of communication open. It’s important to be accessible and responsive to your children.
Sometimes you may have to ask the tough questions while reassuring them like, "Are you feeling sad and depressed? I've noticed some changes. I'm here. I want you to try to open up to me."
On resources available to parents to understand teen mental health
The internet is a good source because they have several internet-based agencies. We also have a local agency here – the Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana. They’re a great resource for information, parent education, and programs for youth and adolescents.