By Hailey Barrus

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020, the percentage of mental health-related emergency visits in children, between the ages of 12 to 17 years old increased by 31%, compared to 2019.

Suspected suicide attempts and emergency room visits also increased in this age group during 2020 and 2021, especially in young girls. Between February 2021 and March 2021 suspected suicide attempts and emergency room visits were 50% higher among girls, whereas boys in this age group saw a 3.7% increase, according to the CDC. Right now suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34 years old.

Researchers with John’s Hopkins-Bloomberg School of Public Health stated that disrupting school and interactions with peers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has left teens with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.

With the uptick in mental health challenges and suicidal attempts in adolescents, many parents, educators, and counselors are looking for solutions.

“Our goal with ‘My Life is Worth Living’ is to create a global social change movement towards eradicating suicide and supporting youth mental health,” said Anne Brown, CEO, and President of The Cook Center for Human Connection.

The Cook Center for Human Connection has created a YouTube mental health series titled “My Life is Worth Living” and focuses on the most common mental health issues teens face. The series focuses on five different characters and discusses issues like cyberbullying, physical trauma, sexual abuse, depression and suicide, and the LGBTQ+ community.

“We created ‘My Life is Worth Living’ as a youth mental health series because we know that kids are struggling with mental health and they feel like they are alone and the only ones having these issues. So we wanted to show them first and foremost that they are not alone, and second of all it is okay to need help and ask for help,” said Cook.

“My Life is Worth Living” also has a full curriculum available for each episode that includes discussion questions, journal entries, and group activities, and it is free for families and educators to use. Sara Holmberg is a counselor at Dell Rapids Middle School in South Dakota, and has been using the “My Life is Worth Living” curriculum with her 7th and 8th-grade students this school year.

“If I am working one-on-one with a student who is struggling and they go home and watch the videos on the series, and find a character used a coping mechanism that they want to try, it’s an engaging way to allow them to explore the issues that they are having and open up a conversation with their parents, a trusted adult or a friend,” said Sara Holmberg, Dell Rapids Middle School Counselor.

The “My Life is Worth Living” series plans to add interactive counselors to their videos in the near future that would further educate and engage more students and their families struggling with mental health challenges.

For more information about crisis hotlines, and websites see the site linked below:

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