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Coronavirus

Suicide rates drop slightly in Will County, anxiety overall is up — especially among young people

The Will County Health Department on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, in Joliet.
The Will County Health Department on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, in Joliet.

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Even though 2020 has brought an increase in suicides in Illinois, suicide has dropped in Will County, according to a news release from the Will County Health Department.

The coroner’s office has stated that through August of 2019, Will County had 50 suicides (with a total of 68 for the year), but only 42 (rulings pending on two other cases) through August 2020, according to the health department.

Dr. Joseph Troiani, the health department's behavioral health director, gave credit to a number of initiatives as well as overall awareness in Will County.

"The governor announced the creation of the Call4Calm hotline in April, where residents can simply text TALK or HABLAR to 552020, and receive a call from someone within their region," Troiani said in the release. "We have responded to over 50 requests from people that just wanted someone to talk to. 

"Additionally, we were able to partner Call4Calm with the Crisis Line of Will County, with their personnel also able to respond. It gave people a second available outlet and allowed us to take even more of a pro-active approach.”

Troiani feels it important to be aware of the signs of a mental health crisis in yourself and others. He feels it's important to encourage people to talk about it and even ask, "Do you feel like harming yourself?"

“From the current state of things, you can still look for sudden increased self-isolation, downturn in mood, lack of engagement with the family, or just being verbally despondent," he said in the release.

"Keys that can trigger suicide continue to be hopelessness, helplessness, or pure exhaustion and feeling they have no options.  If you hear someone saying ‘There’s no way out,’ or ‘I really don’t know what to do,’ you really need to take action."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said adults in the U.S. have reported "considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19."

Those especially experiencing increased use of substances, suicide ideation and worse mental health outcomes were racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers and younger adults.

And Chegg.org (a nationwide group that advocates, fundraises and conducts researches on student-centered issues) reported a high level of anxiety in "COVID-19 and Mental Health: How America's high school and college students are coping during the pandemic," which the organization released in September.

Chegg.org found that 56% of students were “moderately,” “very,” or “extremely” worried about their mental health, half were experiencing anxiety (with 46% anxious about returning to school or campus), a third reported depression and nearly one-fourth said they knew someone who had suicidal thoughts.

Edward-Elmhurst Health recommended steps parents can take to protect their teens:

• Restrict access to dangerous or potentially life-threatening items in the home (e.g., firearms, knives, harmful substances).

• Closely supervise teens with a history of suicide attempts or self-injuries.

• Limit time spent alone to prevent opportunities to engage in self-harm.

• Set limits on screen time and monitor teens’ phone calls, texts and social media use for bullying or self-harm exposure.

• Try to keep conflict at home low.

• Make sure teens feel comfortable asking for help.

• Frequently check in with teens to see how they’re feeling.

• Ask teens what their friends are saying. This can help parents gauge their child’s thoughts.

• Acknowledge the reality of the pandemic but reassure teens that it’s temporary.

• Help teens understand they aren’t alone, that life will get better.

• Treat any talk of self-harm or suicide seriously. Call 911 or go to the emergency room.

The following are warning signs of depression and suicide:

• Any changes in eating or sleeping habits Isolating, emotional or social withdrawal Irritability, mood swings, hopelessness

• Statements of “I am a burden”

• Questioning the purpose of their life

• Lack of interest in usual activities

• Acting out behaviors, running away

• Anger, rage, agitation

• Alcohol and drug use, other risky activities

• Neglecting personal appearance

• Obsession with death and dying Lack of response to praise

Resources for help include Call4Calm, which can be reached by texting TALK or HABLAR to 554020, or dialing 1-217-545-5100.

Contact Crisis Line of Will County at 815-485-7366 and the Will County Health Department behavioral health division at 815-727-8521.

Linden Oaks Behavioral Health offers a 24-hour Help Line at 630-305-5027. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-TALK (8255).

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