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Doctors say suicides among children are up due to coronavirus pandemic

Some signs of suicide include a drastic change in mood, loss of interests, or reckless behavior.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-area doctors have a warning about an alarming rise in the number of children trying to harm themselves.

Some kids are back in school with new social distancing guidelines while others are still learning remotely. Parents in both situations are concerned about the mental and emotional toll the pandemic is having on their children.

Doctors in the Carolinas say children are greatly struggling with the pandemic leading to an increase in suicides. 

"People are more depressed, more anxious," said Kate Penny, a program coordinator of Zero Suicide at Atrium Health

"There are so many people needing our help right now and seeking care all of our hospital beds are full," said Jennifer Ziccardi, RN, vice president and chief nurse executive of Behavioral Health at Atrium Health.

At Atrium Health, their psychiatric emergency department adolescent admissions increased by 28% from April 2020 to July 2020.

"It's the hopelessness that really makes people not see a way out of the situation they're in," Wayne Sparks, Senior Medical Director at Atrium Health

Some signs of suicide include a drastic change in mood, loss of interests, or reckless behavior.

RELATED: Doctors concerned about daylight saving time depression combined with pandemic

Experts say suicide is a difficult topic to discuss, but an important one.

"Speak to the teen without any judgment, without any invalidation of their feelings, said Rodney Anthony Villanueva, a Psychiatrist at Atrium Health. "Ask them directly what's causing them to feel this way what's causing them to think about suicide?"

As we continue to face uncertain times, doctors say there are several ways to help prevent suicide in our community. For example, break the stigma and talk about suicide, ask someone if they're okay, call for help, post about suicide prevention on social media, and get trained in mental health first aid. 

If you or a loved one is attempting suicide, please call 911. Atrium Health’s Behavioral Health Help Line is available 24/7 for crisis assistance at 704-444-2400 or 800-418-2065.

Atrium Health also offers a free Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course. 

Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based eight-hour course that teaches attendees how to recognize and respond to signs/symptoms of suicide, mental illness and substance use disorders. Learn more about Atrium Health’s Mental Health First Aid program and register for a class online.

They also have a Zero Suicide initiative. Zero Suicide creates a network around each patient, assessing for suicidality at multiple points and with multiple providers throughout the care process, and collecting and sharing data.

RELATED: Gaston County organization promises mental health resources in less than 90 minutes

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