DANVILLE, MONTOUR COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — This month is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and a local health expert is helping bring awareness to an under-diagnosed condition that can lead to teen suicide.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. But even much younger children are falling victim to it which a board-certified psychiatrist blames largely on undiagnosed mental illness.
Being a child or adolescent, especially in the 21st century, isn’t easy. It’s even harder for young people dealing with a significant mental health disorder like depression.
“Depression and suicidal thoughts, they seem to be increasing more throughout the pandemic,” said Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Specialist at Geisinger Dr. Angelica Kloos.
But Dr. Kloos says not enough of us are paying attention. What’s behind this disconnect?
“We’re all in our own rooms and we’re on our computers and our phones and we’re not interacting the same way that we used to and I think it makes it harder for parents to really tell when there’s a problem,” said Dr. Kloos.
Family, schools, and the community at large have a significant impact on children and their mental well-being. So does social media. Researchers for Facebook, which owns Instagram, blame the photo-sharing app for making one in three teenage girls feel bad about their bodies.
Dr. Kloos says a teenager spending too much time online doesn’t necessarily mean they’re depressed but sometimes it does.
“Finding out that difference, I think really comes down to understanding your child, getting to know your child, and letting your child know that you’re there for them and that’s not always easy,” said Dr. Kloos.
Dr. Kloos urges children have their depression or other mental health condition recognized, diagnosed, and appropriately treated.
“One of the biggest problems that we have as a society and especially really in this area is that it can take quite a while to get into health services and I think the pandemic has just made that worse,” explained Dr. Kloos.
Which is why she believes coordinated care and integrated access teaming psychologists, social workers, and pediatricians together, which Geisinger does, is key to helping prevent a preventable tragedy.
“Start the process right away instead of waiting for a phone call, email, things like that,” said Dr. Kloos.