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BIG SPRING – Emergency Department visits for young people with thoughts of suicide or self-harm increased by 25 percent during the latest CDC report.


The data was culled from emergency room visits from January 2017 through December 2018.


The sharp uptick is especially troubling since this was several years before social isolation from COVID-19, said West Texas Centers CEO Shelley Smith, LMSW.


“Mental health professionals are especially concerned of the fall-out stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Smith said. “This is uncharted territory for all of us, especially our youth who have been enrolled in online learning and kept away from friends and extended family and sometimes their jobs for significant periods of time.”


“Teen-agers are very social and interactions with their peers, their teachers and clubs and sports are of tantamount importance at this stage of their development. This is one of the most important times for families to be in tune with their child’s mental health development.”


Many organizations, including West Texas Centers is amplifying its mission of suicide prevention for the month of September, which is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. 


West Texas Centers operates a 24-hour Crisis Line for anyone who needs immediate assistance. The number is 1-800-375-4357. 

West Texas Centers also offers information, education, emotional support and links to resources for people affected by COVID-19. 


“Everyone should be aware of the warning signs of suicide and how to help someone you believe may be thinking of harming him or herself,” Smith said. 


The National Institute of Mental Health suggests contacting social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency. 


The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide, according to National Institute of Mental Health.


Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves.
Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live.
Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun.
Talking about great guilt or shame.
Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions.
Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
Talking about being a burden to others.
Using alcohol or drugs more often.
Acting anxious or agitated.
Withdrawing from family and friends.
Changing eating and/or sleeping habits.
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast.
Talking or thinking about death often.
Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy.
Giving away important possessions.
Saying goodbye to friends and family.
Putting affairs in order, making a will. 


If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or recently increased. 


If you know of someone in crisis, please call the West Texas Centers Crisis Line or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). The services are free and available 24 hours a day seven days a week.


The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889. All calls are confidential. 


West Texas Centers is the Mental Health Authority for 23 counties in rural West Texas. 

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