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Wellness Check: Underlying factors that contribute to suicide in teens

Posted at 7:40 AM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 18:25:22-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — New research shows suicide risk has spiked since pre-pandemic years. The numbers are especially jarring when it comes to teenagers.

In this week’s Wellness Check, 3 News Now anchor Vanessa Villafuerte spoke to a local psychologist who explains how parents can respond to the crisis.

Teens are taking steps toward better socialization these days, but that doesn’t take away from two years stuck in isolation.

"I think it's been a crisis; I think the pandemic has heightened the crisis overall. I think our rates have increased because of the pandemic,” CHI Health clinical psychologist Dr. Michelle Roley-Roberts said.

We decided to look at the numbers in Nebraska, to see how kids are being impacted, and just how severe the crisis really is in the state.

"Because of the isolation that was happening for families,” Dr. Roley-Roberts said. “We saw increased rates of emotional abuse, physical abuse, particularly for our teens who identify as LGBTQ, so that's certainly contributing nationally to the higher rates."

Although research is still being conducted to understand the national spike in suicide rates, experts often point to social media as a trigger.

"Research would say if you spent three or four more hours a day using social media, you're at higher risk for a mental health disorder,” Dr. Roley-Roberts said.

Since social media perpetuates feelings of loneliness in teens, Dr. Roley-Roberts suggests limiting a child’s time on all social media platforms.

"My recommendation would be to limit your access to social media,” Dr. Roley-Roberts said. “As hard as it feels, taking some breaks from social media would help you in the long run."

So, when should parents worry about their child’s mental health?

"Isolating more, spending more time on media, or just not doing things that you would typically your child would typically enjoy doing,” Dr. Roley-Roberts said. “Taking a lot of risks like doing things that seem really dangerous, like all of a sudden your child is drinking a lot of alcohol, or running away from home, those kinds of things would definitely be risk factors."

If there’s any silver lining, Dr. Roley-Roberts said research shows that suicide rates haven’t really changed in Nebraska.

"In Nebraska we saw the rates not necessarily change because of the pandemic,” Dr. Roley-Roberts said. “One of my thoughts on why the rates stayed the same is that our services got prepared quickly through telehealth, so outpatient and partial hospitalization quickly I mean within the matter of a month of the pandemic happening.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the national prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

You can also call the Nebraska Family Helpline at 888-866-8660.

Here’s a list of other resources:

For Catholic Health Psychiatric Help: (402) 717-HOPE (4673)

Nebraska Family Helpline: (888) 866-8660

Suicide Hotline: (800) 273-TALK

Safe Harbor: (402) 715-4226

Lutheran Family Services Mental Health Support:

Refugee Support

National Alliance on Mental Health, Nebraska Branch:

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