SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – An alarming study published by the American Medical Association shows the number of children and teens who visited emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts and attempts has doubled between 2007 and 2015.
Researchers looked at 300 emergency rooms and tracked the number of children between 5 and 18 who received a diagnosis of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts each year.
Nearly half of those visits were from children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old.
“When I was little I don’t think I knew somebody could kill themselves, but now they will say stuff like that and I’ll have a parent come in and say that and it scared them to death,” said Beth Brock, a Licensed Clinical Social worker, and Play Therapist.
She’s seeing mental health issues start younger and younger. The reason? She said it’s complicated, but it starts at home.
“There has to be connection with parent and child there has to be activities face-to-face being with them seeing them doing things no matter how busy things are,” said Brock. “And if there’s so busy that you aren’t making eye contact with them and you aren’t having a true connection there’s problem and adjustments need to be made.”
Marti Barrow, a mother of two, agrees. Her oldest daughter just got her first phone under the condition that there would be no social media use.
“No child has a strong enough sense of self in my opinion at the age of 11 to really deal with all he comparing that there is naturally and innately in an avenue like social media,” said Barrow.
Dr. John Rowlet, head of St. Joseph/Candler’s Pediatric Hospital is seeing the trend right here at home.
“Over the last several years and I’ve been doing this almost 30 years, we’ve seen a continued increase in the number of children, teenagers, young adults, who are having more and more emotional problems,” said Rowlett. “And some of them thinking about hurting themselves, some of them actually trying to hurt themselves, and unfortunately a large number of people who actually have taken their own life.”
The same study shows half of the kids in the US with mental health problems go untreated.
Brock said its harder to recognize suicidal behavior in younger children as opposed to teens. She suggests looking for extreme behavior such as anger or irritability and to of course always consult a mental health professional if you have any doubts.