Suicide attempts among teenagers are on the rise, and too often we hear heartbreaking stories in the news of children and teens who attempt or die by suicide. It’s easy to think that these are isolated incidents but suicide attempts among children and adolescents are actually more common than you might think. Suicide is actually the second leading cause of death for individuals 10 to 24, according to The Jason Foundation’s Parent Resource Program, with an average of 3,041 adolescents in grades 9-12 attempting suicide each day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16% of high school students reported considering attempting suicide in the last year. Thirteen percent reported making a suicide plan and 8% said they tried to carry out the plan.
For many parents, the middle of August is the most wonderful time of the year. After hearing a thousand iterations of “I’m bored!” and waging a positional (often losing) arms race against excessive screen time, we are thrilled to cram our children’s backpacks full of shiny new school supplies and post those “milestone” first-day-of-school pics to Instagram.
With the overabundance of media outlets today, many adults have difficulty discerning the line between reality and fantasy, so it should come as no surprise when children experience these same feelings. And when the images show a nonstop barrage of war, shutdowns, terrorism and violence, a military child can experience anxiety, fear and confusion. They may not know that person in uniform on TV, but it’s someone who looks like Mom or Dad.
Military parents can help allay those negative feelings by talking to their children and validating their very real concerns.
Turning 18 is a significant milestone for children and parents alike. It’s a rite of passage that children look forward to, as they think "Finally, I can make decisions on my own." On the other hand, parents typically feel some sort of apprehension about their child entering the perils of the adult world. “Where did the time go,” they wonder, and “Will they be okay on their own?” That apprehension is likely intensified for parents of children who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
With the recent heart-wrenching images of migrant children in the news, there is an increased awareness of the unique mental health needs of migrant and refugee children. Since 1980, there have been about 3 million refugees who have resettled in the US and 35-40% of them were children, according to the organization Bridging Refugee Youth & Child Services. Being exposed to a range of physical and psychological stressors places these refugee children at higher risk for physical and mental health issues requiring treatment. Sadly, research cited by the National Institutes of Health has found that refugees are less likely to seek mental health treatment. This could be due to a lack of understanding of mental illness and treatment options in general, and the fact that it is often more difficult for refugee children to access the mental health services they need.
Long before the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” found its way into American culture, military parents knew that raising their children in a safe and nurturing environment was a community effort. Being a military child brings with it inherent challenges and rewards; a strong support system within the military culture can ensure the rewards outweigh the challenges.