Kids in Crisis: A look at adolescent mental health

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – New studies are showing an unforgiving rise in mental health cases involving children ages 6 to 18.

Those cases can lead to self-harm and even suicide, and they’re happening here in the East.

Jenine Fox works for Integrated Family Services.

The company serves patients throughout 25 counties in eastern North Carolina.

“As of right now for 2017. for that age range of 6-18, we have served 184 individuals within Pitt County alone,” Fox said.

Doctors in Vidant Medical Center’s emergency room said cases of severe depression and self-harm are so common it’s backlogging the department.

“This company was started in 2003,” said Fox. “The state basically looked to see these are individuals who are showing up to the emergency departments and individuals were realizing we’re having people show up that don’t necessarily need to be here.”

In 2016, Integrated Family Services had 625 calls in the east to help children at risk of self-harm.

“Our data shows that the trend is rising,” said Fox. We have served each year the data keeps rising more and more. Those trends vary from different issues whether that’s depression anxiety, self-harming behaviors.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 1999 to 2015, more than 1,300 children between the ages of 5 and 12 committed suicide nationwide.

Most cases of mental health leading to self-harm are found between the ages of 11 and 15, around the time of middle school.

“Issues as it relates to adolescent suicidal ideation has been something that school systems have always had to face,” said Travis Lewis, director of Community and Student Services for Pitt County Schools. “Here lately it seems to have taken on even more prominence, and a factor in that is social media.”

Experts said part of the problem is social media posts containing embarrassing photos or information can be shared dozens of times and often never go away.

“The computer bully,” said Lewis. “The person who says things they wouldn’t say, or isn’t socially acceptable to say to someone face-to-face where they can say just the most awful things.”

Fox agreed, saying social media is playing heavily into this epidemic.

“From what we can see that is the number one thing; the more pervasive thing that we see,” said Fox.

Aside from bullying, Fox said there are other factors playing a role such as relationships, conflicts within the home like divorce and sexual identity concerns.

There are resources available such as the Mobile Crisis Center.

It’s a free 24-7, 365-day-a-year service where help is just a phone call away.

Fox said, “There are trained qualified professionals and the team consists of licensed clinical social workers and qualified mental health professionals. You have clinical addiction specialists that are there. These people are actually going out and responding to these calls to say here’s how we can help.”

Services are also available online that connect you or your child instantly with professional help.

What bothers Fox most about the crisis?

“How pervasive it is,” said Fox. “How it is consistently going on throughout the nation. How children consistently do it and how it’s becoming more cruel.”

For the link to the free, 24/7 online resource click HERE.

For service over the phone call: 1.866.437.1821

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