Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Offers Parents Advice on Recognizing Suicide Warning Signs

Increasing pressures to achieve academic success. Mounting extracurricular demands. Cyberbullying. Difficulty fitting in to societal expectations. Covid-19 and its subsequent social isolation. All these factors can adversely affect the mental health status of children and adolescents.

To raise awareness of World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10), Albany Med child and adolescent psychiatrist Naema Qureshi, MD, offered insights and helpful advice for concerned parents on recognizing the warning signs and how to seek help for their children.

Dr. Qureshi acknowledged the social isolation associated with the pandemic has been “significant and challenging” for children and adolescents. “Kids are under a lot more stress in schools, expectations are higher” in terms of scholastic achievement in the classroom and on the athletic fields. Social media and texting already provide more opportunities for cyber-bullying. Students spent the past 18 months learning remotely and being deprived of access to positive adult figures such as teachers and coaches, making circumstances even more challenging.

As a new school year begins, Dr. Qureshi tells parents to trust their gut when it comes to their kids. If your child exhibits any major changes in mood or behavior, if they seem more lethargic, less socially engaged, cease personal hygiene habits altogether or even openly talk about death, it’s time to start that difficult conversation. And don’t be concerned about planting the seed in kids’ heads. “You don’t give people the idea about suicide by asking about it,” said Dr. Qureshi.

After having a conversation with your child, consider setting up an appointment with his or her pediatrician. School and community resources are also available. Albany Med has a team of child psychologists on staff to provide proper treatment and counseling; medications can be prescribed to those age 16 and older. And finally, should you encounter an urgent self-harm situation with your child, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or in an emergency call 911.

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