SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and from Sept. 4-10, it’s National Suicide Prevention week. The goal of these dedications is to inform professionals and the general public about the warning signs of suicide and suicide prevention as a whole.

During today’s Medical Coverage segment, we were visited by Dr. Laura Waters, a pediatrician with Mercy Hospital, to talk about what people should be aware of when it comes to suicide prevention.

“Suicide, unfortunately, is the second-leading cause of death among 10 to 14,” Waters said. “And it’s the third-leading cause of death for people 15 to 24.”

According to surveys, more than 4 in 10 high school students reported feeling “persistently sad or hopeless.”

“It’s definitely something we need to be talking a lot more about,” Waters said.

For the last year after the pandemic, Mercy Hospital has seen an uptick in children visiting the emergency room with symptoms of suicide, such as suicidal thoughts.

Some of the signs of suicide ideation that parents can look for include:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns.
  • Beyond usual fatigue.
  • Loss of self-esteem.
  • Abandonment or loss of interest in favorite pastimes.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Unexpected and dramatic decline in academic performance.
  • Personality shifts and changes, such as aggressiveness and excess anger.

If parents have concerns, they should talk to their children. Waters said that many parents are afraid to talk to their kids about this issue because they don’t want to put thoughts into their heads. But kids, she said, are already thinking about these kinds of things.

“Having open conversations with your kids before these things start also makes it easier for them to talk to you about this stuff,” Waters said. “But if you have concerns, talk to them about it.”

Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm can reach out to the new National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988.