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Self-harm and suicide are on the rise among Virginia youth. Here's how parents can help.

Am I Okay?
Posted at 5:17 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 07:01:51-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- New data from the Virginia Department of Health is revealing a frightening reality that more and more kids and teens are engaging in self-harm.

"A lot of uncertainty. Worried about their lives moving forward," Pippi Wingfield, a counselor with Spread Your Wings Supportive Counseling, said.

Wingfield said she hears the cries of young people who come to her agency for counseling.

"During the pandemic, I had an influx of teens and young people suffering from depression. They were having suicidal ideations. Felt lonely and sad. All of that came about because of the pandemic," Wingfield said.

A recent VDH report detailing an increase in self-harm and suicide cases among young people in Virginia underscores what Spread Your Wings is seeing.

From 2016 to 2021, there were more than 58,000 self-harm emergency room visits, a 129% increase in boys and a 190% increase in girls.

Wingfield believes an unprecedented number of challenges and stressors during COVID-19 are contributing factors. She said parents need to be in tune with their children and recognize when it's time to seek help.

"Mood swings, anger. Those are definite signs of something going on. You know your child and know if they're not normally angry or normally loud or showing signs that are unusual for your particular child, then those are definitely things to look into," Wingfield said.

Getting children connected to mental health services in a timely manner has been a huge challenge for many families, especially during the pandemic.

Wingfield's business saw an influx in young clients and things aren't slowing down. Expanding her business in Chesterfield will allow more teens and families to get critical health services.

"You have to use active listening. Build up a rapport with them to express their feelings instead of bottling it up inside because that is not healthy for your mental health," Wingfield said. "You do a lot of listening and then you try to get them to focus on things they can change. Focus on the things they can do and not so much focusing and worrying about the things they can not."

Anyone who is in need of help can text the word TALK to 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

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