As a report from the Children’s Hospital Association emerged that the number of children ages 6-12 visiting children’s hospitals for suicidal ideation has doubled since 2016, Mental Health America of Dutchess County Executive Director Andrew O’Grady weighed in on this troubling phenomenon.
O’Grady expressed concerns about the ramifications technology and social media have had on today’s youth.
“As kids are exposed, at a younger and younger age, to all the corners of World Wide Web, they are taking in and processing information and images,” he said. “It may give them a false sense of normal.”
The information and images young people are seeing these days have only grown to become more abnormal as time has gone on, according to O’Grady.
“Now that kids can see and experience things so bizarre and so abnormal in their own private world through devices there is no true way to manage it,” he said.
Other factors outside of Internet use could be to blame for this troublesome trend. A JAMA study pointed to the association between both family as well as financial stability and suicidal ideation.
The report from the Children’s Hospital Association stated that the number or emergency room or inpatient visits ticked up to just under 5,500 in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
They also reported that visits for teenagers with suicidal thoughts only went up 44 percent, compared to 115 percent for children ages 6-12.
Very little data has been reported on children who actually commit suicide. A 2015 Center for Disease Control analysis pointed to a doubling of the suicide rate for teenage girls, and a 30 percent uptick in teenage boys between 2007 and 2015. Meanwhile, the CDC reported only 29 suicides between children 10 and younger in 2019.
Still, O’Grady urges families to be watchful of children who express suicidal thoughts.
“Despite the numbers of teen suicide being extremely low, it is not something you should ignore,” he said.
If you live in the Dutchess County area and you or your child are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the Helpline at 845-485-9700 or visit the Stabilization Center at 230 North Road in Poughkeepsie
If you live outside of the Dutchess County area, call your local mental health hotline if there is one, or the national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)