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Helping kids cope during the pandemic

Kids are tough, but they’re also under an extraordinary amount of pressure. Suicide and suicide attempts are up dramatically, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A teenager in our viewing area took her own life in recent days, so WINK News spoke with mental health experts who have some advice for helping kids cope.

The phone number they say we should know – and hope we never have to call – is this one: 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Ariella VanHara with the David Lawrence Center in Naples works with counselors, who are reporting an increase in patients.

“Specifically increases in anxiety, suicidal thoughts specifically related to the pandemic,” she said.

The CDC said an alarming number of young people are thinking of taking their own lives.

Laura Guarino is a counselor with Salus Care, and said, “I’ve had one kid recently get Baker Acted.”

The spike comes with the return of kids to class. Even the most well-adjusted students can struggle in these uncertain times. It could be because of grades, missing their friends or a parent’s job loss.

“This is new for everybody, so people don’t really know how to cope,” Guarino said.

“I think some of the pressures that they’re facing are things we can’t even relate to. I think there’s frustrations and challenges that we have never experienced and I think it’s important to engage in active listening,” VanHara said.

That’s the trick these days – listening to our kids and watching them. What’s new? What’s different?

“Saying, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed you’re no longer interested in playing sports or you seem down. Is everything okay?’ And sparking that conversation,” VanHara suggested.

Parents also need to be honest with themselves.

“It’s hard for a parent to act like everything is calm and cool when they’re not feeling safe themselves,” Guarino said.

A little talk can go a long way.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The free and confidential service is staffed by crisis center employees from all over the country, and counselors located in Southwest Florida answer calls made here.

There is also the option of texting by using the Crisis Text Line which can be accessed by texting BRAVE to 741-741.

If you or someone you love are in immediate need of support, call 911.

RESOURCES

Warning signs to look out for in your child:

  • Isolation or refusal to attend school;
  • Changes in eating habits;
  • Withdrawal from peers or social activities;
  • Withdrawal from extracurricular activities at school or in the community; and/or
  • Reports of bullying, harassment, or intimidation in school, the community, or on social media.

SalusCare has a weekly zoom support group for parents. It’s free and you do not need to be a client. It’s Monday nights at 7. Zoom ID: 975 9545 3712 Password: 488302

SalusCare Emergency Services: 239-275-4242

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255​

Disaster Distress Helpline: www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline​

Parent/Caregiver Guide for Helping Families Cope with COVID-19: www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources/fact-sheet/outbreak_factsheet_1.pdf​​

Smart Social: Monitor your kids online https://smartsocial.com/parental-control-software/​

National Association of School Psychologist: School safety and crisis (PDF)

David Lawrence Center website for children

If you or a loved one are struggling, you can find support by visiting resources on the NAMI website.

For a comprehensive list of resources and organizations, you can visit This is My Brave. 

For additional tools, including a treatment locator, you can visit the CDC’s mental health web page. 

MORE RESOURCES

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County
namicollier.org

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry counties
namilee.org

The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers

Collier County Mental Health Court
ca.cjis20.org/home/collier

Lee County Mental Health Court
ca.cjis20.org/home/lee

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
convio.net

Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America
adaa.org

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)
hhs.gov/programs/topic-sites/mental-health-parity

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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