CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A national youth suicide prevention group is opening an office in North Carolina as local hospitals report increases in mental health referrals for children.
A mental health crisis unlike ever before is running parallel to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are seeing concerning evidence of sharply increased rates of anxiety and depression in North Carolina, especially amongst younger people," said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen.
In response, the Jason Foundation, a national suicide awareness and prevention nonprofit, is launching a North Carolina chapter offering resources and programs to local parents, schools, churches, and community groups.
It’s coming at a critical time.
"Every six hours someone dies of suicide in our state," said suicide prevention expert Fonda Bryant. "That is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-34."
A CDC survey found 15.4% of North Carolina high schoolers said that they have made a plan to attempt suicide in the past twelve months.
Atrium Health saw a 28% rise in children visiting their psychiatric emergency department between April and July.
Bryant urges parents to keep an eye out for changes in their kid's behavior.
"All of a sudden they’re withdrawing eating too much, not eating enough, substance abuse, things they once found pleasure in they no longer find pleasure in, they're irritable," she said.
"If we don't have mentally healthy youth, we're not going to have mentally healthy adults."
Help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255.