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Spike in symptoms of mental health and suicidal thoughts for young adults, experts say

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 5:06 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The changes to the upcoming school year due to the coronavirus pandemic can take a toll on a student’s mental health.

The executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness here in Springfield, Stephanie Appleby, says young adults can experience more symptoms of anxiety and depression because so much of this year is unknown.

“These schools are kind of doing what they can to accommodate the need. So they’re splitting friend groups up by last name and sending some to different schools, some without their peers that they’ve been with for a really long time, causing a lot of anxiety.”

Appleby says kids are used to structure. Without it, it can cause a lot of stress and potentially thoughts of suicide.

“They’re having these thoughts that extreme because they’re feeling so closed in,” Appleby says. “They’ve been isolated already. Then you add in the factor that their world is gonna change as they’ve always known it and having that lack of control, maybe their mindset is putting in hey this is a way you can control it and if you can’t deal with it, there’s your option, which we know is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

NAMI and Burrell Behavioral Health Center are both being flooded with people seeking help. Appleby says it’s good that so many people want to get help. Burrell’s crisis line got about 50 calls a month about self harm before the pandemic. In June there were about 190 calls.

“We’re seeing maybe an increase in the severity of symptoms,” Amy Hill, Burrell’s director of school-based services, says. “So perhaps there was a teenager, youth or adult that experienced mental health symptoms pre-COVID but now their symptoms are more severe or they’re seeing a relapse.”

But for some kids, this could be the first time they’re experiencing these thoughts at all.

“School-aged kids, a lot of teenagers, are reporting that they’re not able to do the things they love anymore,” Hill says. “Everything they enjoy is gone now.”

Parents can look for warning signs in their children-- like losing interest in things they used to love, giving things away or feeling hopeless.

Burrell says support from peers and trusted adults can be extremely important.

“Encourage them to live, to tell them why they’re important to you, why you want them to stay then refer them for help,” Hill says.

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK.

Burrell’s crisis help line is 1-800-494-7355. Both numbers are staffed around the clock.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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