Suicide Prevention and Mental Health

The suicidal rate among children and adolescents has increased in the past few years. School pressures, social media, upsetting news in the media, discrimination, and bullying (including cyberbullying) are some of the contributing factors for depression and anxiety among youth. We know many families have concerns about their child’s emotional well-being and we always recommend paying close attention to the signs of mental health conditions so that you can take the appropriate actions.

While all kids will experience their bad or moody days at times, long periods of sadness and withdrawal could be a sign of mental health struggles. There is usually a range of symptoms that indicate depression or anxiety, such as changes in sleep and eating patterns, loss of interest in activities your child used to enjoy, academic struggles, or signs of substance or alcohol abuse. Often, your child will show more than one sign that they’re dealing with mental health challenges. 

If you do notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to start a conversation with your child right away. You might feel hesitant to bring up the topic of suicide in fear that talking about it might lead to your child having suicidal thoughts. However, it actually lowers the risk and sends the message to your child that you are there for them, and that they have a loving and caring adult they can turn to. 

When you talk to your child about their mental health, avoid any judgmental or accusatory tone. You want to come from a place of empathy so that your child trusts you and feels comfortable opening up to you about their thoughts and feelings. The majority of kids who are suicidal will say something before making any attempt. It could be something along the lines of “I don’t care about life anymore, “I’m better off dead,” “I hate living,” or “I’m just a burden.” They may express feelings of hopelessness or being trapped. All of these should be taken seriously and never brushed off as teenage moodiness. 

Avoid telling your child to not feel a certain way or anything that might invalidate their feelings. Instead, show them understanding and compassion while helping them put things into perspective and offer ways to reframe their thoughts or beliefs. Let them know that you are there for them to help in any way and remind them that you love them even if you think they already know this. It’s reassuring to hear this in times of distress and can stop someone from trying to take away their life. 

Even after engaging in conversations with your child, it is beneficial to seek treatment if they’re struggling with depression or anxiety. There are different types of therapy such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), as well as medications that can help. But it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider and mental health specialist before deciding on the appropriate treatment plan for your child. For more information on treatment options, check out this resource from Child Mind Institute. 

If you ever believe that your child is at immediate risk for suicide, take action to get them help right away. Call or text 988 for the Lifeline which provides 24/7 free and confidential support to anyone considering suicide. If there are any weapons, lethal tools, or substances that are easily accessible, remove them out of your child’s reach.  

Having a child who is suicidal or struggling with their mental health can feel frightening and worrisome. But remember, you and your child don’t have to go through this alone. We are here for you to provide the support, treatment, and resources your family needs. Call our office if you have any concerns.  

Caring for a Premature Baby

About 11-13% of pregnancies in the US result in premature birth and about 60% of twins and triplets are born prematurely. If your baby was born early, you might have questions and concerns about their development and health. Caring for a premature baby will depend on the degree of prematurity. Late preterm occurs between 34-36 weeks of completed pregnancy. Moderately preterm occurs between 32-34 weeks. A very preterm birth occurs between 26-31 weeks and extremely preterm occurs at or before 25 weeks. 

The more premature the baby is, the more likely they are to have health issues and disabilities. For babies born too early, a neonatologist (a pediatrician who specializes in the care of premature babies) may be called in to determine if any special treatment is needed. To learn about some of the common medical conditions that can affect premature infants and the way they’re treated, check out this resource here. Most premature babies are born in the late stage and will grow up to be healthy kids thanks to medical advancement.

Premature babies will be smaller than babies born at full term and their heads will seem larger in relation to the rest of their bodies. Their skin will also be thinner and they will have less fat, so they will get cold even in room temperature. That is why when babies are born early, they are placed into incubators to warm them. Some preemies can have trouble breathing because their respiratory system is not yet fully developed. If this happens, your baby will need to be under close observation by doctors and may be given a ventilator or a breathing assistance equipment for support. Premature babies may have to spend more time in the NICU so that they receive the best care they need. 

You might notice that your premature baby doesn’t sleep through the night. This is common for the first 6 to 8 months. To help your baby, maintain a quiet, calm, and relaxing environment during night feedings and use minimal or soft lighting. During the daytime when your baby is awake, interact and play with them. Over time, this will teach your child the difference between day and night. 

When it comes to growth and development, preemies will need to have their age calculated and adjusted during the first two years so that you know what developmental milestones to expect. To calculate the corrected age, take your baby’s actual age in weeks and subtract it from the number of weeks they were preterm. For example, if your baby was born 6 weeks ago and they were born 2 weeks earlier than their due date, the corrected age is 4 weeks. The developmental milestones expected for 4-weeks-olds is what you can expect for your 6-weeks-old preemie. 

If there are any developmental delays, it’s important that they get addressed early for early intervention so that you can get your baby on track. To learn about the developmental milestones for premature babies, check out this guide to save.

Just like with any baby, your infant should have regular well checkups. It’s not necessary for all premature babies to have more well visits than babies born at full term. However, if your baby has health issues, they may need more checkups for us to monitor their conditions and provide special care.  

For questions or concerns about your preemie’s health and development or to schedule your baby’s well checkup, call our office.