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We’ve moved beyond a crisis…it’s a mental health emergency

Ask any pediatric health care provider and they will tell you that a mental health crisis has been building in the United States for a long time.  After 2 years of pandemic living, the situation has become an emergency. In a recent federal survey, more than 4 in 10 high school students reported feeling "persistently sad or hopeless," while 1 in 5 said they'd thought about suicide. With an insufficient number of mental health professionals and lack of hospital beds for pediatric patients, children and their families have been left to struggle on their own.  While pediatricians have provided support, counseling, and often medical management, our resources are also limited. 

In May of this year, my office had four patients attempt suicide.  Fortunately, no attempt was fatal but all four spent time in the intensive care unit.  The youngest was only 13 years old and was on the waitlist at three hospitals for inpatient therapy.  As a parent and a pediatrician, this is unacceptable.

On July 16th, a nationwide suicide and crisis hotline becomes available.  By dialing 988, patients or concerned family members will have immediate access to a trained mental health professional.  While there is much more to be done, this is an important step in supporting families and providing resources for people in crisis. 

The MDAAP, under the guidance of Drs. Suzanne Rybczynski and Kristi Machemer, have launched a suicide prevention project that will ask Maryland teens to guide and produce educational materials and suicide prevention videos.  We hope this information will be helpful to parents and adolescents in identifying signs of concern and providing tangible items for action.

Never hesitate to have a conversation with your pediatric health care provider no matter how minor the perceived issue.  We are here to listen. We are here to help.  Know the signs and know where to find help.

For more information on adolescent suicide risk factors:

Teen Suicide Risk: What Parents Should Know - HealthyChildren.org

For more information on things parents can do to prevent suicide:

12 Things Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Suicide - HealthyChildren.org

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