The holidays are a time for happiness and joy, but for many people it means the complete opposite, even for teens.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens. Studies show 1 in 5 youths think about taking their own life at some point and one in eight actually attempt it.
“It’s terrifying to me as a mother,” said Cynthia Brock, the Director of business development at Red River Hospital.
Another statistic was added when police say a female student at Old High took four prescription pills, reportedly saying “I don’t want to be here anymore.”
Wendy Risner, a counselor at Rider High School, said they see students suffering from depression every day. And about once a week, she said they see a student in a crisis situation or having thoughts of suicide.
“I don’t think that teachers or parents realize how much stress kids are under these days, even the smartest kids, the kids that are in all honors and AP classes,” Risner said. “They’re doing homework all night, they’re involved in all kinds of activities, they’re not getting enough sleep, they’re not eating healthy, and that all can play and have a detrimental on their mental health.”
And she wishes counselors were given more time to actually counsel.
“A crisis situation should be our number one concern,” said Risner said. “I wish we just had more time to go into the classrooms and talk to kids about being depressed, about cutting, about things that they are worried about at home.”
According to Brock, extreme changes in mood, sleep disturbances, reckless actions or changes in behavior are all signs parents should look for in their teens.
And she said don’t ignore what may seem like idle or repeated comments about wanting to die.
“I think one thing you have to look for is when a child or a teen starts to talk about taking their own life or giving away their belongings,” said Brock.
She said those are big red flags and suggests a parent should contact their child’s physician or counselor immediately.
“Parents need to talk to their children and they need to talk about what is upsetting them. They need to stay up to date and kind of plugged in to social media.”
And parents should also encourage their children to speak up about warning signs in their friends and also utilize their school counselors.
“A lot of students aren’t aware that we aren’t just here to change their schedule or to work on their graduation plan, we’re also here to talk to you if you have problems or concerns,” said Risner. “We’re here just to talk and be a listening ear.”
Risner said all WFISD teachers must take a mental health first aid class and they also have a stress and anxiety group gathering every week for students to talk about whatever may be bothering them, no matter how trivial.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts please call the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 800-273-8255.