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Doctors warn that, as data shows, edema is increasing among children

CHICAGO — Emergency rooms are overflowing with children with suicidal thoughts. This happens with children from the age of 5 and with teenagers.

Mental health is always an issue. That’s under the microscope in a new study by researchers at Northwestern University and Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Suicidal ideation was a problem that existed before the pandemic, but it was masked by the panic surrounding Covid. Then the isolation and depression got worse. And doctors say that the threat of suicide is increasing.

Dr. Audrey Brewer is a Lurie Pediatrician and Instructor in Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We would classify this as an epidemic,” she said. “Frankly, this is a mental health crisis. … Back in 2019, there was a dramatic increase in emergency department visits among youth of all age groups. So, long before the pandemic started.”

The numbers in the study show that suicidal ideation does not discriminate, affecting different populations. “Mental illness does not exclude any particular racial ethnic group. This does not exclude your economic status. It affects everyone across the country and in our state,” Brewer said.

Suicidal thoughts are the biggest concern.

“Suicidal ideation is thoughts about potentially wanting to commit suicide, not the act itself, but it’s thoughts about wanting to commit suicide,” Brewer said.

The study found that suicidal thoughts increased by more than 45 percent from 1999 to 2020. More than 47,000 young people aged 10-19 died. The rise in prevalence of depression, anxiety and severe mental illness is to blame, according to the study. And once a person has suicidal thoughts, he is more than three times more likely to carry them out and end his life by suicide.

“(These thoughts) could potentially lead to someone actually wanting to harm themselves,” Brewer said.

The data paint a picture of the problem, but medical experts are still puzzled by the root cause and the solution.

“Things related to poverty, also other types of trauma or discrimination or trauma in the home, having family members dealing with mental illness, as well (can be factors),” Brewer said. “There are so many factors why kids go through these mental health issues.”

The pressures of school, social isolation, social media, politics, family, neglect or abuse all weigh heavily on our youth.

“If I can’t address my patients’ mental health issues, it’s going to be very difficult for me to address their physical needs,” Brewer said. “We need to be able to provide more resources for children in outpatient settings, resources, whether it’s in the school system or different community organizations. We need to develop more policies to really help and support our children and their families.”

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of self-harm, get help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Helpline provides 24/7 free and confidential support to people in distress.


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