The Millstone Times

♥ HEALTH & WELLNESS The Rise in Teen Suicide: Apps to Use for Help By, Surabhi Ashok

The years 2020 and 2021 have seen an alarming increase in teen suicide compared to previous years. In addition to the rising death toll, cases of attempted suicide and emergency hospital visits have also become more common. Signs point to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting stress in causing this crisis. Hospital departments held many visits from kids with mental health issues in April to October of 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Vera Feuer, the director of pediatric emergency psychiatry at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of Northwell Health, informed that “The kids that we are seeing now in the emergency department are really at the stage of maybe even having tried or attempted or have a detailed plan” for suicide. How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the rise in teen suicide? For one, the quarantine has resulted in the loss of support services that are offered more easily in-person. Teenagers with mental illnesses rely on the communities they make in school which ensure support and needed companionship. Resources can be hard to come by at-home, so mental health and performance in school has quickly taken a sharp downturn in many teens going through anxiety and depression. It is also a lot harder to build connections with peers, counsellors, and teachers. Kids who need help are not able to get it as quickly, having to go through emails and schedule meetings. How can a teacher reach out if they cannot even see that their student is struggling? Both of these reasons are caused by self-isolation. Not only are schools closed, but general social activities are heavily restricted. It can become over- whelming to realize life at the present is so much different than it was before. Furthermore, life at home can result in even more stress due to job and income loss at the start of this pandemic. "Families who have lost family members, parents who have lost jobs, kids who have lost contact with people who are close to them, children who have experienced some significant challenges at school. All of these experiences are fairly traumatic,” notes Dr. Richard Martini, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry. Adding to all of this, some teens feel like they cannot talk about their conflicting feelings to anyone, including their parents. This increase in teen suicide must stop. With the rise in teen suicide emerges a multitude of apps made to help teenagers feel supported by their family and friends. One specific app is called NotOK, and was created by Hannah Lucas. Hannah Lucas was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) at just 15 years old, which meant her heart had difficulty pumping blood to her brain. This caused numerous fainting episodes and 200 absences her freshman year. When her classmates bullied her rather than assist her, Hannah fell into a deep depression that led her to self-harm and attempt suicide. The inspiration for her app came from these thoughts and experiences. She revealed in an interview to InStyle, “At that lowest moment in my life, I just wished that I had a button that I could press whenever I was not okay to instantly notify my friends and family that I [needed help].” That is essentially what NotOK recreates. Working with her little brother Charlie, Hannah created NotOK for teens struggling with mental health. After pressing the digital button, the system sends a text message to at most 5 people you can count on, telling them that they should check up on you because you are not okay, along with your ad- dress. This accessible platform surely saves so many lives. Not only does the software provide mobility for mental health strugglers, it also shows teenagers drowning in their isolation that they are not alone in their obstacles. The app’s, and Hannah’s, motto is “that it is OK to not be OK.” The stigma surrounding mental health issues is large, but with one app at a time, hopefully people feel less afraid to reach out to others and talk about their experiences. Other apps include Calm Harm, which provides methods like Distract to thwart self-harm impulses in kids, and It Gets Better, which showcases videos of people from the LGBTQ+ community that uplift teens who are still struggling through challenges like acceptance. The prevention of suicide is possible. Do not hesitate to reach out to family, to friends, to teachers, to peers, and to apps online that can relieve your strug- gles to some capacity. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.


30 The Millstone Times

May 2021

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