- Brain continues to develop until age 26
- ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Study determined that childhood traumas powerfully influence who children become as adults. Four or more ACE can lead to physical and mental health problems throughout the lifetime.
- 12 million young people under 18 years old living in the US will have mental health disorder in a given year.
- Mental health disorders start early. Median age of onset for: a) Anxiety (6 years old); b) ADHD Behavior Disorder (11 years old); c) Mood Disorder like Depression and Bi-Polar (13 years old).
- Onset of all lifetime mental health disorders: 50% by age 14, and 75% by age 24
Mental Health “Red Flags” and Warning Signs:
- Excessive sleeping or no sleep
- Loss of self-esteem
- Abandonment or loss of interest in favorite pastimes
- Unexpected and dramatic decline in academic performance
- Weight loss and loss of appetite or weight gain
- Personality shifts
- Talking about death or wanting to die
- Depression: weeping or excessive moodiness; eating habits change; expression of hopelessness or worthlessness; paranoia and excessive secrecy; self-injury; excessive isolation; abandonment of friends; drop in grades
- Anxiety Disorder: inability to set aside a worry; stress that is out of proportion to the impact; restlessness; fatigue; difficulty concentrating; irritability out of ordinary; muscle tension; sleep problems
- Mental health issues can lead an adolescent to experiment with alcohol and drug abuse (hangovers, slurred speech, red eyes…) and addiction as a way to self-medicate.
- Suicide: talking about or making plans for suicide; expressing hopelessness about the future; displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress; showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior; withdrawal from or changing in social connections; changes in sleep; anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context; recent increased agitation or irritability.
Youth Suicide Can be Prevented:
- Know the Risk Factors (mental illness, substance abuse, firearms in the house, previous suicide attempts, non-suicidal self-injury, exposure to friends’/family member’s suicide, low self-esteem.)
- Know the Protective Factors (family and school connectedness, safe schools, reduced access to firearms, academic achievement, self-esteem.)
- How to respond: talk directly and openly; express concern; listen attentively and non-judgmentally; show understanding and love; keep open lines of communication; help develop coping skills; offer treatment and resources.
- Best practice treatment for suicidal behaviors: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT); Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT); Managing Suicide Risk: a Collaborative Approach; Problems Solving Therapy.
- The most important question to ask a potentially suicidal person is: “Where do you hurt?” and “How can I help?” (Edwin S. Shneidman)
How to Help a Child Cope with the Loss of Someone to Suicide:
- Talk openly and help the child know that suicide is a complex issue. There could be different factors.
- Explain that everyone grieves differently and it will take time to work out the grief.
- Assure the child that it is not his/her fault, so don’t feel guilty.