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Mental Health America report: Suicidal thoughts increasing in youth during pandemic

Mental Health America reports anxiety and depression rates hit an all-time high in September. But those rates are hitting our most vulnerable, harder.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — There is no question COVID-19 has had a big impact on our lives. 

A report released by Mental Health America this week shows anxiety and depression rates hit an all-time high in September. 

Almost two million people filled out Mental Health America’s online anxiety and depression screens between January and September.

The questions ask how often someone feels depressed, or has thoughts of self-harm. Based on their results, the nonprofit reports young people are hurting the most during the pandemic.

Mental Health America said suicidal thoughts are hitting kids the hardest. More than 100,000 people between the ages of 11 and 17, who took the survey, reported frequent thoughts of suicide.

It’s happening right here in Hampton Roads. 

Supervisor of Child and Behavioral Health for the city of Virginia Beach, John Paradiso, said their services are in high demand.

“There is an increase of hopelessness, feelings of helplessness,” Paradiso said. “Families are really struggling. We are definitely seeing heightened anxiety and a more depressed mood.”

The department’s new patient requests for service doubled in July, August and September, compared to 2019.

July 2019: 4                   July 2020: 20

August 2019: 12            August 2020: 26

September 2019: 10     September 2020: 20

(Data provided by Virginia Beach Department of Human Services)

Coordinator of counseling services for Virginia Beach Public Schools, Robert Jamison, said that while staff haven’t seen a spike in suicidal thoughts, students are having trouble coping with the unknown.

“How long is this going to last, is this the new normal, what is it I can do to help myself,” Jamison said. “We are getting a lot of those questions.”

His team is responding by ramping up outreach.

“Checking in with students daily, whether virtually or face to face,” Jamison said. “In the event they are not reaching out to us, we are doing as much as we can to let them know we are here for them.”

Jamison said the community must battle mental health issues, together.

“Those in Chesapeake can help those in Virginia Beach, Newport News, Hampton,” Jamison said. “Any kind of resource that is out there, we need to be communicating with one another.”

Jamison said he encourages parents to reach out with any questions and concerns, no matter how big or small.

The Virginia Beach Community Services Board and other cities offer 24-hour emergency services call lines, including an informational warm line for any questions or concerns.

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