Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – The pandemic shined a spotlight on the mental health crisis in the US. According to the CDC, for children ages 10 to 14, suicide was the second leading cause of death in 2020.
In 2020, the CDC says death by suicide was as common as death by car crashes for 10 to 14-year-olds. But suicide numbers have been on the rise for teens since 2008.
“Unfortunately, kids have a lot to deal with these days. They have a lot of stressors they need to deal with,” said UW Health Kids’ Pediatric Psychologist Shandra Wells.
Wells says many catalysts or triggers can lead to a decline in mental health for kids. While the pandemic can be a trigger, it is far from the only one.
“It’s been going on for a long time, I just don’t think it’s slowing down,” said Wells.
Wells says an early way to spot a decline in mental health is mood swings. For younger ages, this typically means acting out.
“Lots of times, depression and anxiety can come up as externalizing behaviors in kids which means instead of getting down on themselves or crying a lot, they might actually act out,” said Wells.
Others would lay the decline of mental health in kids and teens at the feet of social media.
“But what we’re seeing with social media is kids are drawn because of their addiction, they can’t walk away from the bully they walk right into it,” said founding partner of the Social Media Victims Law Center, Matthew Bergman.
Bergman says several families are alleging social media led to the death of their child — including Christopher Dawley, a Wisconsin teen who committed suicide in 2015.
“What we’ve learned is the dopamine effect on the brain, particularly an adolescent brain, upon getting a like on social media is similar to the dopamine effect of getting a bump of cocaine,” said Bergman.
If you or someone you know is suffering a decline in mental health, there are lots of resources at hospitals, or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The number is 800-273-8255.