February 28, 2021

Des Moines Register / Des Moines, IA / Kristin Danley-Greiner

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on most everyone. People have lost their jobs. They’ve been evicted from their apartments for being unable to pay their rent. They’ve wondered where their next meal will come from and worried about their kids.

Iowa was one of few states that didn’t enact stay-at-home mandates during the pandemic. Other states’ residents struggled with being cooped up at home. For example, Marylanders were only allowed to leave their homes to walk their dogs, exercise, drive to the grocery store/food bank or to seek medical care/go to the pharmacy. Kids still haven’t returned to in-person learning after more than a year of virtual education.

So it isn’t surprising that cases of depression increased tremendously in areas where people were on lockdown due to the pandemic.

Still, Iowa doctors report seeing a concerning increase in teen suicide attempts. Dr. Ken Cheyne blames the pandemic. Cheyne specializes in adolescent medicine at Blank Children's Hospital. 

The Iowa Poison Control Center has reported a considerable increase in 11- to 14-year-old girls swallowing medication in an effort to harm themselves. They’re feeling alone and depressed. 

"One of the things that we can all do as adults is we can try to make sure that the adolescents and young adults that we come into contact with know the importance of having a schedule, not getting your days and nights mixed up, working on the basics, eating healthy," Cheyne told KCCI-TV in a segment that aired Feb. 22.

KidsHealth.org explains that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds after accidents and homicide. The risk of suicide increases exponentially when kids and teens have access to firearms. The website noted that overdoses also are commonly used by teens attempting suicide. 

Warnings signs include talking about suicide or death in general, giving hints that they might not be around anymore, talking about feeling hopeless or guilty, pulling away from friends and family, giving away treasured possessions, losing the desire to take part in favorite things or activities, having trouble concentrating or thinking clearly, changes in eating or sleeping habits and engaging in risky behavior.

According to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the risk factors predisposing those to having suicidal thoughts include having a mental disorder, alcohol or other substance abuse disorder, feelings of hopelessness, impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies, a history of trauma or abuse, major physical illnesses, previous suicide attempts, a family history of suicide, job or financial loss, lack of social support and a sense of isolation, loss of relationships and lack of healthcare.

A loss of relationships can occur when isolated, both factors that have surfaced during the coronavirus pandemic. Keep tabs on your teens and let them know you love them and you are there for them. Be sure to share with your teen that you will listen to them and if that doesn’t work, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255.


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