More Connecticut students report feeling sad and hopeless and they are seeking help at school-based health clinics, as more students become aware of the services, counselors say. Their problems range from bullying to family issues to anxiety. As the national post-Newtown conversation about mental health issues and school security continues, advocates are pushing for more early intervention programs, such as the health clinics, inside schools. “Securing buildings from the outside may keep somebody out, but it’s not helping somebody that is behind those doors,” said Shari Shapiro, the executive director of Kids in Crisis, a Fairfield County nonprofit that has an in-school counseling service called TeenTalk in six schools. The percentage of teens who said they’ve attempted suicide has ranged between 6.7 and 12 percent for the last decade, according to the state’s bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
While the number of youths in Connecticut who die by suicide has declined since 2007, the average age of the children who kill themselves has decreased from 17 to just over 14, and the percentage of youths who report self-injury or feelings of hopelessness has risen in recent years, according to a new report by the Office of the Child Advocate. In the new Public Health Alert, Child Advocate Sarah Eagan urged, “We must sound the alarm about the prevalence of youth anguish and despair . . . We must ensure that a helping hand is part of every child’s life, and that no child or family suffers in silence.”
Her office and the state’s Child Fatality Review Panel called for increased screening of youths for depression and suicidal thoughts by health care providers and schools, expanded access to “timely and effective” clinical care, and an annual child fatality legislative hearing to address child deaths and prevention strategies.