September is suicide prevention month. Youth suicide attempts soared during the pandemic. Now with school back in session, the topic takes on another level of importance because statistics show that kids’ risk of suicide actually goes up on school days. Dr. Corey Gonzales, a clinical psychologist, joined the 17 News at Sunrise team Friday to talk about the warning signs and how to help children through difficult situations.

Dr. Gonzales says studies show that internationally there is a 40% increase in pediatric suicide during school months. Gonzales says there are many factors at play here. Academic stress plays a role, compounded by the fact that so many kids are now behind due to pandemic school closures. Bullying, both in person and online, also plays a big role. With the spread of social media, kids are losing important social connections, and that again was compounded due the pandemic. Social connections are one of the most important coping measures for kids and adults when it comes to preventing suicide. On top of all that, Dr. Gonzales says children are not immune to anxiety over COVID-19 and school shootings.

Dr. Gonzales says there are things parents, family members and mentors can teach children to help them become more resilient. First, connect with your child. As a parent, listen to their concerns, let them know you care about their safety. If you see any big changes in eating and sleeping habits, or signs of self-harm, connect your child to a mental health professional either through school or their pediatrician. Get kids connected with friends, promote positive social connections through mentors, activities and church or sports. Teach kids coping skills like problem solving without violence, self-soothing techniques and social skills. Help your child cultivate their identity and find purpose. And finally, manage their social media. Dr. Gonzales says studies show social media can cause great harm to self-worth, especially for teen girls. He says that studies show kids should not have social media until high school and even then there should be strict time limits and all devices should be out of a child’s bedroom a half-hour before bedtime.

Dr. Gonzales also recommends apps like Headspace, Not Ok, Calm and Smiling Mind. If you are in crisis you can call the new national mental health crisis number: 988; you can also call 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741.