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What you need to know about an increase in teen suicides

Teen suicide rates are up. The pandemic isn't helping, but we can.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — September is suicide prevention month and much of the focus this year is on teens. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people. The numbers have increased dramatically over the last ten years, and now the pandemic seems to be making things even worse.

“Because of the uncertainty, and the stress, and all of the unknowns, and challenges that have come on with the pandemic, we're very concerned about young people,” says Dr. Anisha Abraham.

Dr. Abraham is a pediatrician and teen health specialist.  She says now, more than ever, we need to pay attention. Being a kid is tough enough but being isolated makes it harder. And they put more on their shoulders than you might think.

“They also maybe facing a lot of uncertainty in terms of planning for their future, thinking about jobs or university, or their own families and the economic challenges they may be facing,” she says.

You may think you already talk to your kids but it's time to have some real conversations.

“Just taking the time as adults to connect with young people to ask, how are you doing? How are you feeling right now? Are you feeling down? Are you feeling sad? Even asking very specifically about suicide. A lot of adults think that if you ask about suicide, you're more likely to have a young person become suicidal, in fact you're increasing the likelihood of them getting help,” she says.

“Normalizing those conversations, taking away the stigma, is really important as a first step in terms of helping young people,” Dr. Abraham adds.

She says helping teens find routine and structure without their normal school day is key. Teaching them time management can help relieve some of the stress. And encourages teens to connect with others even if only digitally but be careful not to compare yourself with others on social media. And while devices can do so much good, it's good to know when to put them down, and focus on something that truly gives you joy.

“For some it may be listening to music, for others it might be writing or journaling, for others it's going out and kicking a soccer ball. So, whatever that is, making sure you put it in there, and you go to it, and you do it on a regular basis,” she says.

And most importantly, know that help is available. You are not ever alone. If you need help, please call the suicide prevention hotline. Someone is there 24/7. 1-800-273-TALK.