September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a time to share personal stories and resources in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic.

According to an article posted on NAMI’s (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) website, suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, each year, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss. Sadly, many of those affected are teenagers. According to a recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate for white children and teens between the ages of 10 and 17 increased 70 percent between 2006 and 2016 and up a startling 77 percent increase among African American teens.

So, what’s the reason behind such an alarming increase in teen suicide rates? Researchers have cited a few theories, including lack of access to appropriate mental health care, teens not wanting to come forward, social media and the rise in popularity of smartphones. In fact, researchers have found an alarming correlation between smartphone usage and an increased rate of suicide and depression among young people. According to a report published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the use of electronic devices, including smartphones, for at least five hours a day among teens more than doubled from eight percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2015. The group who spent the most time glued to their phones were 70 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts or actions than those who reported one hour of use per day. Additional research supports cyberbullying, the fear and anxiety of being left out and sleep deprivation linked to constant smartphone use as direct factors affecting teens’ mental health and well-being.

Regardless of the reasons behind this alarming trend, now more than ever is a need for accesses to mental health and wellness providers. Suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious underlying issues. In addition to parents actively engaging in open and honest conversations with their children and keeping tabs on their social media accounts and smartphone usage, access to mental health services is imperative. Being able to work directly with a mental health professional can help your child if they are struggling. If you feel your child may depressed or at risk for suicide, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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