Warning Signs To Watch For In Your Child During An Alarming Rise In Suicidal ER Visits

There is a huge mental health crisis among today's children and teens that is increasing at alarming rates. In fact, mental illness among young people is at an all-time high (via American Psychological Association).

Surprisingly, the rates have been steadily increasing even before the COVID-19 pandemic began. A study in the journal Pediatrics followed children ages 5-19 in Illinois hospitals between January 2016 and June 2021 (per CNN). It found that 81,051 children were treated for suicidal ideation and kids' emergency visits for suicidal thoughts increased 59% from 2016-17 to 2019-21.

"We saw more kids than we typically do that we . . . wouldn't necessarily have thought would have problems about suicidal ideation. We saw 5-year-olds," said Dr. Audrey Brewer, an attending pediatric physician and study co-author. "To see them presenting to emergency departments for mental health or for suicide-ideation-related visits is very concerning."

With suicidal thoughts on such a shocking rise, there are some warning signs that parents should look out for.

Look for these alarming signs in children and teens

The suicide rate in children and teens is a problem nationwide. "Over the last nine years, where we would see about anywhere from one to two patients a day that were having a behavioral health crisis, now we're seeing 20-plus a day," says San Diego physician, Dr. Nicholas Holmes, as per CNN, who describes the increasing numbers as "profound."

The reasons for the suicidal thoughts include anxiety, depression, and substance use as a response to trauma, such as problems at home or in school, online bullying, and social media pressure.

Signs of potential suicidal thoughts include self-isolating from friends and family, issues with eating or sleeping, mood swings, failing grades, talking about feeling hopeless, like a burden, or not wanting to be alive anymore (via Child Mind Institute).

"It's important for parents to feel empowered to really sit back and listen to their kids and talk to them. Really try to relate and understand what is going on with them and help promote positive relationships," Dr. Audrey Brewer told CNN while acknowledging her belief that access to mental health services is vital. "We need to make sure more children will have safe places to grow and thrive."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.