ILLINOIS (WCIA) — “I’ve recently had to walk multiple children to the emergency room here because they were suicidal,” Dr. Jill Schreiber, a licensed social worker with OSF Healthcare, said.
It’s a reality no one wants to think about, but experts need you to pay attention to.
The country’s child death rate is rising faster than it has in 50 years.
The numbers are leaving doctors, parents, teachers and therapists concerned.
A new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association said the death rate increased by about 20% between 2019 and 2021.
This chart shows a decrease in the early 2000s, but an increase starting in 2019.
Experts said this is happening for a number of reasons, from accidents and car crashes to drugs and gun violence.
A 16-year-old in Urbana was shot and killed in Urbana last week.
Officials said communities need to look toward solutions because families are being destroyed.
“As families become more stressed, children are more stressed and they actually bury the symptoms of a community stress,” Karen Crawford Simms, the executive director of Champaign’s Trauma and Resilience Initiative, said.
When that happens, consequences can be severe.
“Because of addictions, gun violence, their own exposure to drugs and alcohol, and then also because of their own mental health needs. There’s an increased risk of suicide,” Crawford Simms added.
She said it’s a hard time to be a kid.
Dr. Schreiber works with them every day.
“Part of what’s happening for kids is the effects of the isolation from COVID,” she said. “Kids had lost a couple of years of development practice with social skills and community connections.”
Dr. Schreiber said racial injustices and the Internet haven’t been helping either. It’s hard to see the number of likes and the number of followers people have on social media. The social worker knows it makes it easy for kids to compare themselves to others.
The effects follow kids to the classroom.
“It’s devasting. I would certainly like to see those numbers go in the opposite direction,” Barb Thompson, the superintendent of Fisher Schools, said.
Her students wore blue and white on Wednesday to remember two boys at nearby Prairie Central. They died in a sledding accident over spring break.
“You want to be supportive. You want to reach out. Unfortunately, if you’re in education long enough, you deal with situations like this,” Thompson added.
Crawford Simms said parents need to support their kids through the tough times.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t minimize their concern,” she said. “But having them involved in after-school activities, having them connected to positive adults.”
Therapists can help too.
“Part of it’s talking through what’s going on inside of you, I think that some of it is learning some skills or coping skills,” Dr. Schreiber said. “It’s normal to feel anxiety.”
The study also broke down the numbers between boys and girls. It said boys are dying at nearly twice the rate. Dr. Schreiber said that could be because of how they’re socialized and their perception of guns and violence.