EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of articles about mental health. With recent suicides by teenagers on the Waccamaw Neck, many people are working to find ways to help remove the stigma about mental health. Treated in time, suicides can be prevented.
By themselves, numbers may not be too significant. But when you look at some of the things that numbers help explain it can be daunting.
In the wake of several deaths by suicide of teen-agers in recent months in Georgetown County, it’s sobering to look at statistics related to mental health and to suicides.
Perhaps the starkest of these statistics is that the third leading cause of death nationwide for young people from 10 to 24 years of age is suicide.
Another sobering statistic is that 90 percent of the young people who die by suicide had an underlying mental illness.
These and other important statistics are in the infographic with this article. The information comes from the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), a national non-profit organization founded by a group of moms whose children have or had mental illness.
Kathy Redwine, a Licensed Professional Counselor with offices in Pawleys Island and Georgetown, is working with Shannon Davis, another counselor, to set up a group for teens to talk about issues they may be facing.
Redwine also notes that another statistic is that for every suicide on a national basis, there are about 25 attempts.
“The difficulty with that is so many times, it is not reported,” Redwine said.
“The prevalence (of suicide) is just too common, period. In any age demographic,” she said.
Statistics help reveal problems
Taking the time to look over the chart can help people realize that mental health is a problem for many people.
Half of the people who have mental illness develop problems by their early teen years. By the age of 24, three-fourths of people with mental illness display the symptoms.
A long-term effect is that it generally takes 10 years from the onset of symptoms before a person gets help.
There’s a high drop-out rate from high school. About half of the students who leave school have some form of mental illness. For 70 percent of the people in the juvenile justice system, there is a mental illness problem.
The infographic highlights warning signs. They can include sadness, withdrawal, self-harm attempts, acting out, sudden fears, loss of appetite and more.
There are steps that parents can take.
Talk with your child’s doctor, get a referral to a therapist, work with the school and connect with other families.
“Contemplation of choosing to die by suicide, or choosing to end your life … choice is really not the right word, because it is a brain attack. It’s just like when somebody has a heart attack. The things that occur in their brain are much out of their control. But the intervention that can happen before someone gets to that point I feel like is vast, and that’s the piece that – for one reason or another – I just don’t know that we promote or pay attention to.”
Redwine’s undergraduate degree is in psychology. Before going into graduate school, she said, “counselors existed, but it wasn’t like it is now. I think it is much more common that people are seeking help and seeking advice, but how do we make it so that going to a therapist is just like going to see your doctor? Or going to see your dentist?”
“How is it that we can turn it into, you just go in for check-ups just to make sure everything is okay? And if it’s not, then we can address it.”
She believes people do express their feelings of depression or anxiety to their doctors. Doing that “can help lead them to see somebody, but I just feel like it needs to happen more frequently. And then, there’s lots of people that don’t ever go to the doctor.”
Here’s a key question: “How do we captivate that community? And how do we remove the stigma that if you’re going to see somebody, that it means there’s something wrong with you?”
Redwine will offer suggestions in another article in this series.
As mentioned in a previous article, there are numerous resources available to get help.
• NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Redwine said this organization was started by some moms who were concerned about mental health.
• Waccamaw Center for Mental Health is the local office of the S.C. Department of Mental Health. It has offices in Georgetown, Conway, Myrtle Beach and Kingstree.
• Psychology Today is a magazine. The company also has a Web site that offers a lot of information about mental health. There is a look-up feature for therapists. You may search by name or by geographic location.
• Kathy Redwine has an office in Pawleys Island and sees clients also at Riverside Pediatrics in Georgetown. Her phone number is (843) 274-7604.