I-Team: Pandemic causing rise in teen suicide

DAYTON — While Montgomery County did not record a large increase in the number of suicides last year, Dayton police saw a drastic increase in calls for service regarding suicide attempts. Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl showed the News Center 7 I-Team just how much of an increase Dayton police saw.

According to Biehl, Dayton police responded to 223 suicide attempt calls per year from 2017 to 2019. In 2020, when a pandemic has isolated many, the number jumped 67 percent to 372.

Beihl said the numbers “underscore” the importance of having mental health services readily available.

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While Biehl did not say how many of the calls were to young people, Sarah Seilhamer, Beavercreek City Schools Prevention and Intervention Specialist, said it is young people who increasingly deal with mental health issues everyday.

Seilhamer said that her perspective shows that middle and high school students are being heavily affected by the COVID restrictions. Having their socializing and extra-curricular events cancelled or limited could cause students to feel depressed or even experience suicidal thoughts.

“That age group, they’re forming their identity, trying to figure out what they like, who they are,” Seilhamer said.

While the I-Team learned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have no clear research link between COVID and suicide, they found that in April through October of last year, the proportion of young people arriving at hospital emergency rooms for mental health reason increased. It rose 24 percent for five to 11 year olds and 31 percent for 12 to 17 year olds.

Seilhamer said to look for risk factors in teens and other loved ones, including isolation, changes in personality and behavior and changes in social media messaging that might express hopelessness.

Seilhamer also said to it is good to open discussions about mental health and to not be afraid to ask if someone is thinking about suicide. She said that asking the heavy questions let your loved one know someone cares and wants to help.