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New Surgeon General Report Shows Increase In Attempted Suicide In Teens; Legislators And Doctors Address Mental Health Care

CHICAGO (CBS) – COVID-19 is only one of the concerns for teenagers. A new Surgeon General's report shows attempted suicides among teens have skyrocketed.

CBS 2's Chris Tye with how legislators and doctors alike are calling the system tasked with spotting these problems badly broken. But even skeptics are hopeful that improvements are coming soon.

"I want to tell parents to helicopter their kids. Completely. Be in their face,"

That's the advice Lisa Miller wished someone gave her — as her 18-year-old son's personality changed.

Captain of the cross-country team, speech team, and Spanish club -- Trevor Till left a social Seneca High School in Grundy County for an isolated experience at the University of Illinois in the Fall of 2020.

"He said it's really hard to meet people mom, it's really hard. I said I know honey I'm sorry," Miller said.

The teenager always eager to help others was found in his dorm room by his dad last October— he had taken his own life.

"We used to see on average 2-3 kids a week with serious suicidality, now that rate is up to as high as 2-3 per day," said Dr. Aron Jansen, Lurie Children's Hospital.

Dr. Jansen says case counts are overheating an already overworked mental health system.

A report out this week from the U.S. Surgeon General shows teenage suicide attempts skyrocketing since the pandemic began -- up 51 percent for adolescent girls and a 4 percent jump for adolescent boys.

"All of our mental health care systems in Chicago are held together by duct tape and prayer and that's not the strongest material with which to build a system," Jansen said.

Jansen says if there is a silver lining in this pandemic it's that young people are a bit more willing to be vulnerable and share when they're struggling. He credits the big three names of social media for that.

"Social media has its ills, but it also provides a space for people to feel affirmed in their struggles," Jensen said.

Trevor is both top of mind — and atop the tree. As those who loved him most will spend most of the rest of their lives helping.

"I don't want Trevor to be gone in vain. I want to continue his legacy helping others like he did," Miller said.

Just this week two legislative committees in Springfield met to address funding for the mental health of teenagers. Dr. Janssen says after years of floundering, he feels legislators are poised to make major strides in funding and manpower over the next few months.

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