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Cook Children's Sees 'Alarming' Rise In Suicide Patients, 'Nearly A Child Or Teen A Day' In August

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A North Texas children's hospital said Thursday it has seen an "alarming" rise in suicide patients, especially in August, as school districts continued to debate over the return to in-person learning.

Doctors at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth said they admitted juvenile suicide patients at a rate of almost one per day in August.

The hospital admitted 29 children last month after they attempted suicide. For the year, the hospital said it has seen 192 of these patients, which is more than double the number they admitted during the same period five years ago.

"We see kids every day, telling us they're struggling. They wish they can go back to their normal lives," said Dr. Kia Carter, medical director of psychiatry at Cook Children's.

Carter said the delayed return to school -- and return to normal life -- is leaving some children with a sense of hopelessness.

Social media often fills that lack of an in-person connection, but Carter pointed out it also means children never get a break from social pressures during a year when social divide and picking a side has been constant.

"It goes to that fear of not being included, or not fitting in, or not being a part of something, and not having a strong enough support system where they feel confident that if something does happen and they're not part of the in thing, that they'll be okay," Carter said.

The vast majority of the patients Cook Children's is treating have been young girls between 13 and 15 years old.

Carter urged parents to watch for even mild changes in behavior with children and don't wait to ask for help.

"Schools are screening for it on a daily basis, so I think reaching out to their pediatrician, or to their school counselors when their kids are of age and in school, to say "hey, my son said this, I don't know what to think of this, I'm not sure if this is a concern or not,'" Carter said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or emotional distress, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255.

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