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A disturbing trend in Fresno County has leaders on edge and asking for help from parents to talk with their kids. Officials say it is a public health issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

“Locally we’re paying very close attention to the volume of kids we’re seeing in crisis. Particularly, an increase in suicide attempts in the last few days,” said Dawan Utecht from the Fresno County Behavioral Health Department during a Friday Zoom call with reporters. “This is obviously a big concern to us.”

Utecht referred to the recent constellation of challenging events that have occurred both locally and nationally. She says between COVID-19, the Creek Fire, racial injustice, and political divisiveness, people may be experiencing disaster fatigue. That’s of particular concern when it comes to young people, Utecht said.

“It’s a very significant amount of stress for all of us,” says Utecht.

Recent CDC Study on Youth

“Locally we’re paying very close attention to the volume of kids we’re seeing in crisis. Particularly, an increase in suicide attempts in the last few days.”Dawan Utecht, Fresno County Behavioral Health Department

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 63% of young adults have experienced increased anxiety or depression related to COVID-19. “One in four (young people) have started using substances or increased use of substances,” said Utecht. “And one in four have considered suicide or had suicidal thoughts.”

She says many young kids and teens rely on social interaction, especially that which school provides. “They’re still building that resilience muscle,” explained Utecht.

Uncertainty About Future

“Locally we’re very concerned about our youth as they are experiencing both social isolation as well as the impact of uncertainty about their future,” says Utecht.

She says now is the time for parents and other caregivers to check in with kids and pay close attention to signs of anxiety and depression. That could include panic attacks, outbursts of anger, withdrawing or isolating, or if they don’t seem like themselves.
She says if kids are saying things like, “This will never get better,” that should be viewed as a red flag.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention awareness month. There are many resources available to people free of any charge.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255.

Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.

Behavioral Health Disaster Fatigue Resources www.ValleyHopeInCrisis.com or call 1-800-654-3973

Central Valley Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 Crisis Text Line 741741

Fresno County Behavioral Health Access Line 1-800-654-3937

California Peer-Run Warm Line 1-855-845-7415

Behavioral Health Non-Emergency Warm Line- 559-600-WARM (9276)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 SMS: Text Talk With Us to 66746 SMS (español): “Hablanos” al 66746 TTY: 1-800-846-8517

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