NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee mental health officials predict that national trends in youth suicide are an early indication of what’s going on in the state.
According to 2021 CDC data released last month, suicide rates among people ages 10 to 24 are higher now than they have been since the agency began tracking those numbers.
Centerstone Tennessee’s director of suicide prevention services said that while Tennessee-specific data has not yet been released, the state has reflected national trends in this area in the past.
“There’s a lot going on,” director Megan Williams said, “[10 to 24-year-olds] have a lot of access to things that you and I didn’t have growing up, as well as school demands, sporting events, extracurricular activities, issues at home, outside of the home.
Williams said the stress of being a child, along with the pandemic and constant access to photos and videos of what their peers are up to can lead to a lot of stress, anxiety and potentially depression in young adults. and children.
“For a young person trying to figure out what they want to do, who they want to be, it can be really, really difficult,” she said.
Data from the Tennessee Department of Health underscores Williams’ concerns.
According to the department, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death among Tennesseeians between the ages of 10 and 14. Additionally, that year, one in five Tennessee high school students considered suicide and one in nine tried.
“We see a lot of bullying online,” said Centerstone Crisis Care coordinator Greg Bennett. “People have issues that they’ve never really faced before, but it obviously affects them very negatively.”
Bennett agreed it is difficult to pin down a cause and solution to what he sees as a growing crisis, but isolation and social media play a crucial role in the pain he hears from children and young people adults who text 988.
“The online world – it’s their friend base and when something happens in that friend space it obviously causes a lot of stress, anxiety, and then we see them reaching out to each other,” a- he declared.
Williams said it’s not just that people are constantly online now, but that it’s easier than ever for people to edit their photos to get rid of any part of their body they’re unsure about. or that they may want to change. She said feeling like they don’t look like their friends or don’t look like the photos they post of themselves can lead to body image issues, eating disorders and depression.
“There are a lot of comparisons and you try to figure out who you are and you want to be appreciated,” she said. “I think it can be very difficult for a young mind.”
Williams said she’s heard of children as young as five showing signs of anxiety and depression and heard of pre-teen girls talking openly about self-harm.
“When we talk to them, they really tell us quite directly, ‘yeah a bunch of my friends are going to kind of talk about how we self-harm.’ We really want them to understand how dangerous it can be, when they almost see it as a conversation they can have at their lunch table at school Where you know just like talking about the type of sports team that you will be cheering on this weekend,” she said.
Bennett said that when these children struggle, they often feel like their parents won’t support them or that their teachers and counselors won’t be helpful or take the time to understand.
To these children and anyone else in crisis, Bennett says there is someone waiting to listen and help them 24/7.
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If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, you can dial 988 to speak to a trained professional or text the number to chat with a trained crisis professional.
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