After 3 teens go missing in a week, experts see concerns with mental health

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 6:19 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -There have been three cases of missing teenagers over the past week in Wisconsin, with one case in Wisconsin Rapids, and experts said mental health can be a factor in these situations.

In two of the three cases, suicidal thoughts were factors in their disappearances. Director of the Centre for Well Being, Noreen Salzman said there are many underlying factors that could lead to these situations.

“Anytime a teen, a child, or an adult talks about suicide we want to encourage them to take that seriously,” Salzman said.

With the Coronavirus pandemic impacting people in various ways, Salzman said people having to self-isolate is a big reason why teenagers may be feeling uneasy and lonesome during this time of uncertainty. However, it’s not just teenagers being impacted by a shift in mental health behavior.

“More people in general, teenagers, children and adults, and especially those who might be more vulnerable to anxiety and depression are having a more difficult time,” Salzman said.

She said many other reasons can trigger suicidal thoughts including recent losses, break ups, cyberbullying, among other factors. However, it’s important that parents have those difficult conversations with their kids to make sure everyone is safe.

“There’s a myth out there that if we ask a follow-up question or if we ask a question directly to someone, ‘are you thinking about hurting yourself?’ That’s going to put thoughts in their head,” Salzman said. “And the reality is, that isn’t the case.”

Some common signs for family and friends to look out for in their loved ones include a change in sleeping habits, not interacting with friends and family as much, or substance abuse, but that’s only the beginning.

“If they’re asking some questions about ‘would I even be missed? Would it matter if I were even here?’ Those can be signs that something more is going on underneath,” Salzman said.

If you or anyone you know are in a mental health crisis or are having thoughts of suicide, it’s important to seek immediate professional help.

People are also encouraged to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-(800) 273-8255 for mental health assistance.

Copyright 2020 WSAW. All rights reserved.

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