Mental HealthTeen Suicide Crisis: Giving a Voice to Youth Mental Health

“Everyone mistook my depression, anxiety, and struggles to connect with people as me being ‘shy.’ I would just internalize and was very introverted when dealing with things. It took me many years to realize I wasn’t actually shy like everyone assumed.” — Sarah C” (1).

Childhood is traditionally viewed as the time in life to be free of worry, but teens these days are navigating a different state of reality. A recent study published by Vanderbilt University found that the rate of teens hospitalized for thinking about or attempting suicide more than doubled from 2008 to 2015, and that youth are at an increased risk for thinking about or committing acts of self-harm and suicide(2). Furthermore, suicide continues to be the second-ranking cause of death in youth ages 10-24, and more young adults are dying from suicide than cancer, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, the flu, chronic lung disease, and heart disease, combined (3). The causes of teen suicide are multifactorial and unique to the individual, making it challenging to know where to begin to solve this global problem (4,5).

As youth explore and define their sense of identity, it can be challenging to differentiate between “normal” adolescent behaviours and signs of depression. Depression manifests differently in youth than adults and in younger children, it can become even more difficult to detect. Barriers to effective communication also mean indicators for declining mental health often go unnoticed, leaving youth alone to navigate feelings of hopelessness and sadness. Furthermore, young adults often don’t know how to identify and communicate about their emotions, adding to the challenge of identifying signs of depression (5).

“ young adults often don’t know how to identify and communicate about their emotions, adding to the challenge of identifying signs of depression ”

With nearly 32% of high school students  reporting feelings of sadness and depression in  2017, there is an opportunity to identify these feelings of depression early and intervene before they progress to suicidal ideation or attempt (6). Creating a space for youth to talk about mental health is the first step in addressing this public health crisis. With increased awareness and resulting action, both parents and schools are engaging youth in conversations about mental health more than they were a decade ago. The challenge is still the inherent stigma for youth to feel comfortable fully disclosing sensitive information to adults (7).

Mobile technology is playing a critical role in helping to prevent youth suicide by allowing for timely detection and prompt intervention. While there are a number of mobile apps available for support, few are focused on prevention and even less have an interactive feature to positively engage the individual (7,8).  “At Tickit Health, we’re focused on using technology and digital devices to capture the patient voice and improve how individuals communicate about their mental health to prevent suicide”, says Dr. Sandy Penn Whitehouse, CEO, and Founder of Tickit Health. Tickit™ has made communicating about sensitive topics such as sex, drug use, and depression easier for youth and has detected over 1,000 at risk alerts to date (Read our Case Study here).  If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re working to give youth a voice and end the suicide crisis, contact us at info@tickithealth.com

Are you or someone you know feeling sad or having thoughts about suicide? There are resources and people available to help you 24/7. For resources in the United States click here and for resources in Canada click here.

About the Author

Dr. Hatley Forrest McMicking, Chief Business Development Officer, Tickit Health

Dr. Hatley has spent her past 15 years working in the healthcare industry, specializing in digital health. Hatley uses her medical background as a Veterinarian and keen eye for problem-solving and business development to grow market reach and bring mobile products to consumers. At Tickit Health, she leads the marketing efforts of the company and develops strategies to gain success of Tickit’s products in the global healthcare market.

References

1. Quinn, H. (2017, December 19). 18 Reasons You Might Not Notice Your Child’s Depression. The Mighty. Retrieved from: https://themighty.com/2017/12/is-my-child-depressed/

2. Vallano, L . (2018, June 8.) The teen suicide rate has more than doubled: Here’s how you can help save your child. USA Today. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/allthemoms/2018/06/08/teen-suicide-how-help/685853002/

3. Youth Suicide Statistics. (n.d.). The Jason Foundation. Retrieved from: http://prp.jasonfoundation.com/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/

4. Larsen, M. E., et al. (2015, August). “The use of technology in Suicide Prevention”. 2015 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), Milan, 7316-7319. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2015.7320081. Retrieved from: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7320081/

5. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2017, July). Talking To Kids About Mental Illnesses. Retrieved from: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Talking-To-Kids-About-Mental-Illnesses-084.aspx

6. CDC. (2018, June 14). CDC Releases Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results and Trends Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/yrbs/index.html

7. Wallace, K. (2017, November 06). How to spot depression and anxiety in kids. CNN. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2016/10/07/health/recognizing-depression-anxiety-in-children/index.html

8. De la Torre, I., et. al. (2017, October 10). Mobile Apps for Suicide Prevention: Review of Virtual Stores and Literature. JMIR mHealth and uHealth5(10), e130. http://doi.org/10.2196/mhealth.8036. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29017992

9. Improving HEEADSSS Data Collection with TickiT. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tickithealth.com/trapezeheeadsss

This post has been sponsored by Tickit Health

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Dr.Hatley Forrest McMicking

Dr.Hatley Forrest McMicking

Dr. Hatley is a medical writer who specializes in content strategy and development for the healthcare industry. Whether it be a quick press release for a new mobile app, translating confusing technical jargon for patients, writing a white paper for that pile of data sitting on your desk, or developing a robust go to market strategy, Dr. Hatley wants to make sure your accomplishments are seen. In addition to freelance medical writing, Dr. Hatley is Chief of Business Development at Tickit Health.

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