About 3.2 million 12 to 17-year-olds have had at least one major depressive episode within the past 12 months, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
For the third installment of our mental health series, for Mental Health Awareness Month, we talked about resources for teens and young adults with the Mental Health Center of Denver and Second Wind Fund which works with teens, helps prevent suicide and provides access to mental health care for younger populations.
“Sometimes kiddos don’t always have the words to explain so it’s up to adults sometimes to figure out what’s happening and help the kiddo understand what’s happening as well,” says Kimberlee Bow, Licensed Professional Counselor, and program manager from Second Wind Fund.
Parents need to be on the lookout for sudden changes in their child’s behavior, “When we talk about suicide, to have a change going from sad, isolating to all of a sudden they seem better, happy. It can be a symptom of suicide risk. They may have made a decision to die by suicide and are now actually planning that. So, if they’ve been sad and kind of on a depressive side and then quickly change, you want to take notice of that change and start talking to them,” explains Darren Kessler, a licensed professional counselor with Mental Health Center of Denver.
Both Bow and Kessler said that the most important thing you can do is just talk to your child and ask them if they’re thinking of suicide, “It’s really important to blatantly ask and not word it as, ‘Are you thinking of hurting yourself?’ Self-harm is different than thinking of dying by suicide,” adds Bow.
Both counselors agree that you should ask the direct question, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Most of the time a child will tell you the truth, they say. If so, you should ask, “Do you have a plan to kill yourself?” While this seems like an intense set of questions, the counselors say this is the best approach. The counselors also agree that asking the questions will not put the thought in your child’s mind if they are not already thinking about it.
Some other things that parents can look for in their child or adolescent to help identify if they would benefit from a mental health evaluation include:
- Have lost interest in things that they used to enjoy
- Have low energy
- Sleep too much or too little, or seem sleepy throughout the day
- Are spending more and more time alone, and avoid social activities with friends or family
- Fear gaining weight, or diet or exercise excessively
- Engage in self-harm behaviors (e.g., cutting or burning their skin)
- Smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs
- Engage in risky or destructive behavior alone or with friends
- Have thoughts of suicide
- Have periods of highly elevated energy and activity, and require much less sleep than usual
- Say that they think someone is trying to control their mind or that they hear things that other people cannot hear
If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call 911 or the Colorado Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255. You can also check out a full list of mental health resources in Colorado by clicking here.
9Health recently launched two free online mental health screeners. Click below to take the confidential screeners today:
9Health is a 501c-3 community non-profit empowering people to put health in their own hands by providing tools such as preventive health screenings, evidence-based, objective health education and etools and resources for every day in your health journey.