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Smart Talk: Shining a light on mental health and youth suicide

  • Scott LaMar
  • Merideth Bucher


Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”


Airdate: Wednesday, February 28, 2021


In Crisis? Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline  1-800-950-6264

It has been a stressful year — a global pandemic, COVID deaths, economic turmoil, the list goes on.

Coping with stress — especially for children and young adults, can be difficult. Over time, the impact to one’s physical and mental health can be significant. Conditions like depression and anxiety don’t get better under these circumstances; they are exacerbated and problems can seem insurmountable.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 25 percent of 18-24 year olds had seriously considered suicide compared to 11 percent in 2018.

Complete statistics for suicides in 2020 aren’t available but anecdotally, hospital emergency departments and coroners say they have seen an increase in suicide attempts. Those that suffered from underlying mental health illnesses or conditions before the pandemic at at risk now because their treatments may have been disrupted or stopped.

Wednesday’s Smart Talk focuses on suicide during the pandemic.

Appearing on the program are Perri Rosen, Ph.D., consulting Psychologist with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) in the Bureau of Children’s Behavioral Services. Joining her are Matthew Wintersteen, Ph.D., Executive Board member with Prevent Suicide PA and Christine Michaels, CEO National Alliance on Mental Illness Keystone Pennsylvania.

From Prevent Suicide PA:

What to do if you suspect someone is suicidal:
• Talk to them alone in a private setting
• Ask them if they are thinking of killing themselves or are suicidal
• Ask them if they have a plan
If the answer is yes, call your local County Crisis Team or take them to the Emergency Room RIGHT AWAY and DON’T leave them alone. If the answer is no, make an appointment for them to see a mental health professional, i.e., therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or doctor as soon as possible, and ask them how you can help them. Also, find out who is in their support system (family, friends, co-workers, etc.) and let them know to try and help. Ask them to make an agreement with you that they will not hurt themselves before they get help, or that they will contact you if they feel they are in crisis, or feeling worse.

Warning Signs
• Talking about suicide, wanting to die, kill oneself
• Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
• Talking about feeling worthless, hopeless, or having no reason to live
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Suddenly happier and calmer, especially after a period of depression or sadness
• Giving away prized possessions
• Getting affairs in order, making arrangements
• Increasing alcohol or drug use
• Preoccupation with death
• Acting anxiously or agitated; behaving recklessly.
• Sleeping too little or too much.
• Withdrawal from or changing in social connections/situations
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
• Displaying extreme mood swings.
• Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
• Recent increased agitation or irritability

Risk Factors
• Diagnosis of Depression
• Previous suicide attempt
• Family history of suicide
• Loss of job, home, money
• Death or terminal illness of a loved one
• Divorce or loss of major, significant relationship
• Loss of health, either real or imagined
• Someone close to the person has completed suicide
• Recent disappointment or rejection
• Being expelled from school/fired from job
• Sudden loss of freedom/fear of punishment
• Victim of assault or bullying
• Questioning gender

In Crisis? Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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