Little girl and boy sitting on sofa with a laptop computer at home. Happy children playing indoors using PC.

COVID AND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS IN CHILDREN AND TEENS

Lilia Mucka, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in the Division of Psychology and Behavioral Health at Children’s National and
Erin M. Sadler
, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist in the Division of Psychology and Behavioral Health at Children’s National shared in Rise and Shine that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shaped 2020 in countless ways for children and teens. What started as “sweet, two weeks off school!” for many youths has turned into increased stress, isolation and sadness. Rates of anxiety and depression have been increasing and with that, providers have seen an increase in suicidal ideation. Now more than ever it is important to know the suicide warning signs and to feel comfortable talking about suicide and safety with your child.

Suicide risk factors and warning signs

Certain suicide risk factors are important to be aware of including presence of psychiatric illness, a previous suicide attempt, history of trauma or abuse, bullying or disorders in gender identity.

Beyond risk factors, it helps to be aware of some common warning signs including:

  • Increased thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Discussion of death or feelings of emptiness/hopelessness
  • Changes in mood (anxious or agitated), behavior, eating or sleep
  • Increased isolation or withdrawing from others
  • Risky behaviors or saying goodbye

Protective factors for suicide

There are several protective factors which can be encouraged to help your child:

  • Life skills (problem-solving, coping)
  • Social support from family, friends and others
  • Positive school experiences

Since the COVID-19 quarantine began, it has been more difficult for children to do the things they love. Staying active, going to indoor activities and seeing close friends are just a few things that children have not been able to do in the same way as before. Parents are encouraged to find creative ways to help kids stay connected with peers (i.e. video calls, virtual game nights) and to help kids stay physically active (i.e. socially distant walks, at home workout videos).

 

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