COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolinians are currently experiencing anxiety and depression three times the rate of the national average, according to CDC data from last spring and this summer.
New data from the South Carolina Department of Mental Health and the CDC shows the most at-risk group for suicide attempts is children ages 15 through 19.
In 2019, 433 children ages 15 through 19 attempted suicides that resulted in a hospitalization.
One age group that is of growing concern for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health is children ages 10 through 14, according to program director Jennifer Butler.
Last year, 257 children ages 10 through 14 attempted to kill themselves, a number that has been steadily increasing over the past four years.
However, the age group most at risk of dying from suicide is young adults ages 20 through 24.
Butler said she is concerned that these numbers will increase this year.
“It’s more than COVID...there are a lot of other things happening in our world. That’s what makes 2020 worrisome,” Butler said.
But, there are some positive trends in the latest data.
Suicide attempts from 2018-2019 are down across all age groups. 7,250 South Carolinians attempted suicide in 2018 as compared to 7,081 last year.
Butler adds there is another bright spot.
“We have more resources in 2020 than we did last year,” she said.
The national suicide prevention lifeline is available for all SC area codes, there is a mobile crisis center in every county, and SCDMH has a new partnership with Crisis Text Line.
So what should parents and friends of teens and young adults know?
Chris Haines, Director of School Mental Health Programs at SCDMH, said asking how teenagers are doing is the first step, especially now.
“They’ve had depression because they are alone. They are away from friends and caring adults they are used to connecting with, they are anxious about COVID, they are anxious about whether someone in their family will get it,” Haines explained. “They are anxious about money. Many of them have families that have been affected by the economic downturn associated with COVID-19,” he added.
Haines said the ask to teens is a simple question: are you okay?
He says if someone says they are not okay, you should ask, “have you ever had thoughts about killing yourself?” After that, he said you just need to validate and listen.
According to Haines, research shows people shouldn’t be worried starting the conversation will give children any ideas about suicide. Instead, it allows parents, guardians, and caring adults to help someone feel heard.
Haines adds all people need to say after asking if someone has had thoughts of suicide is, “thank you so much for telling me,” and direct them to resources.
The South Carolina Department of Mental Health recommends two 24 hour resources for people: calling 1-833-DMH-CCRI to speak to a trained crisis professional or texting HOPE4SC to 741-741 to text with a trained volunteer.
Haines tells people if more of these conversations happen, more lives can be saved, “If you just ask kids, most of the time, they will tell you,” he said.