SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The death by suicide of two teenagers in the Natomas area has reminded many about the need to focus on mental health, especially during the coronavirus stay-home order that has many feeling isolated and lonely.
One of the teens was a student at Natomas High School, and the other at Rio Linda High School.
Sacramento Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby, whose district one of the students lived in, said kids can't "be the collateral damage of COVID-19."
While it's impossible to say what influence the pandemic had on the students' deaths, Ashby said it's easy to forget just how much young people have lost in this time.
"Kids, especially teenagers on a day-to-day basis, face really tough challenges," Ashby said. "Now they're being asked to face them with a lot of handicaps, not having some of their strongest supports in place — teachers, or counselors, or friends, principals, or administrators, even grandparents that they can't go see because they’re older."
Ashby said it's OK, even encouraged, to be vulnerable with young people in the community. Ashby also said it’s easy to take for granted just how much older people have learned through life experience.
"There's a lot happening in our world today, and kids are managing big feelings," Ashby said. "And we need to give them the tools that we’ve earned over our adult lifetimes. We need to get those tools in the hands of kids. They need people to talk to. The most important thing for kids is to stay connected."
Lezlie Young is the regional director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or AFSP. She knows how important that human connection can be.
"We really want to remind people to stay connected with their loved ones,” Young explained. "And maybe if you have an older relative who knows how to Facetime, check in with people. Be kind and listen. When you ask someone how they’re doing, listen to how they’re doing. And put that extra ounce of kindness into everything you do."
Young explained now is a hard time for everyone.
"Our concern of course is that people who have an existing mental health conditions, those are being exacerbated right now," said Young. "We want to make sure that we let people know that there is help out there and that there are resources during these really stressful times."
Young said there are things to be on the lookout for as people watch over their friends and family.
"Now more than ever, let's make sure that we stay connected to each other so that we can recognize those signs like increasing withdrawal, talking about this not even being worth living through, signs someone is not dealing with this situation okay," Young said.
Young said there are many resources if someone needs help.
"Right now AFSP.org has some absolutely fantastic resources that are dealing specifically with the COVID-19 crisis," Young explained. "The suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK is there 24 hours a day. And text to 741741, especially young people who prefer the texting platform. It’s a great way to just reach out and get some help if you need it."
For those living in California, the California Youth Crisis line is also available all day, every day at 1-800-843-5200.
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