On average, one person dies by suicide every eight hours in Missouri. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the state, and if you break it out by age, it is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 15-24. Wait! Did you just skim that: suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for young people, ages 15-24. That just begs the question: how is your mental health? Even better…how’s the mental health of your teenager?
HealthyChildren.org, which is the parent outreach portion of the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests that there are some red flags that parents should be alert for:
- Excessive sleeping, beyond usual teenage fatigue, which could indicate depression or substance abuse; difficulty in sleeping, insomnia, and other sleep disorders
- 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, which could indicate an eating disorder
- Personality shifts and changes, such as aggressiveness and excess anger that are sharply out of character and could indicate psychological, drug, or sexual problems
These can be key indicators of larger mental health issues such as depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Teens with a history of such issues are at greater risk for suicide, and parents, friends, and family who identify an increased risk should provide extra supervision, support, and chances to talk.
To increase awareness, a local community leader has organized an Out of the Darkness Walk in October. The event raises money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, but it also brings community members together to raise awareness and show support for survivors of suicide. The walk is scheduled for Sunday, October 13th at Walther Park. You can learn more and join the walk by clicking here.