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VDH report warns of worsening self-harm trends in children, teens

Depression and anxiety affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but the Virginia Department of Health says more and more children and teens are suffering thes
Published: May. 2, 2022 at 5:23 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Family, fans and friends are still mourning the loss of country music star Naomi Judd. Her family says they lost Judd due to her ongoing battle with mental illness. In 2016, Naomi shared that she was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.

If there’s one thing we’ve all learned about mental health throughout the pandemic, it is that it doesn’t discriminate.

Depression and anxiety affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but the Virginia Department of Health says more and more children and teens are suffering these days.

“What we found was that suicide was the second leading cause of death and youth aged 9 to 18 in Virginia between 2016 and 2020,” Cat Long with the Richmond-Henrico Health Districts said.

A new report from VDH paints a heartbreaking picture of the mental war many children and teens battle. Between 2016 and 2021, self-harm emergency room visits surged among boys by 129% and girls by 190%.

“Unfortunately, it’s estimated that about one in three high school students in the U.S. have experienced poor mental health during the pandemic,” Long said.

For many teens, the pandemic exacerbated challenges: Taking away routine, time with friends and major milestones.

Many families faced trauma, financial instability and abused children were stuck inside toxic households with no access to external resources.

Luckily, this age group is responsive to help and positive intervention.

“Teens can be really resilient, and there are lots of things that we can do as a society or within our families to protect teenagers and young adults,” Long said.

LaTesha McIntosh-Smith, a licensed social worker in Richmond, says to pay attention to behavioral changes.

“Most people started isolating themselves even more than what we were being forced to do,” she said.

She urges people to check in with their circle of family and friends. To ask how they’re really doing beyond the surface level.

“That’s the one thing that I stress a lot to individuals; it’s just being able to let the person know that you care for them, let them know that you’re available to them,” McIntosh-Smith said.

McIntosh-Smith says another thing to think about is the families and friends of those who die by suicide and often need mental health assistance of their own due to the trauma.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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