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Mental health challenges and major stressors in life are not battles that we should have to face alone.

After the recent loss of a Lakeridge High School student, I have stopped to think about the mental health of not only myself but of my peers. In a time of what seems to be consistently bad news, it can be hard to keep smiling. Feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety are sadly common emotions in teens across the country.

Over the last few years, teen suicide rates have been steadily increasing; from 2007 to 2018 from ages 10 to 24 there was a 60% increase according to a recent CDC report.

According to Oregon Health Authority, in 2019 there were a total of 129 deaths by people from 10 to 24, making it the leading cause of deaths for teens and young adults in Oregon. The numbers are simply too high and it is time to take steps in changing the trends. Miller

While there is no one reason for these tragic occurrences, we can treat friends, peers and siblings with respect and compassion in the hopes that even a small good deed can make life an easier journey. High school and college are hard both mentally and socially but they can be manageable with love and understanding.

The most important thing to remember if you are worried about a loved one taking their life is to listen. Even if they aren't talking. Reminding them that they aren't alone and encouraging them to share, if not with you then maybe a professional, and spending time with others are important steps in preventing suicide according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Reaching out for help, even if you don't have suicidal thoughts, can help one navigate challenging times, even if you aren't a student. In 2014 Annette Erlangsen, DPH, conducted a study with a group of people from Denmark who had attempted suicide. After therapy it was found that 27% of them wouldn't want to repeat their actions. Elizabeth McCauley, Ph.D, conducted a similar study with teens and also found positive results.

Mental health challenges and major stressors in life are not battles that we should have to face alone. Having someone you feel comfortable talking to, professional or not, may be what helps make the world seem like a brighter place. NAMI, National Alliance of Mental Health, believes, "Self help is vital to the journey to recovery. Self-help begins with self awareness … self awareness helps identify certain triggers … while also being aware of what helps relieve them. These triggers can range from high levels of stress, family, friends, relationships or even world events."

Breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health and creating a positive outlook on self help will help us build a stronger foundation of positivity and inclusion in our community.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. They are open twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, never hesitate to call.

I may not know Ezekiel Crowder personally, but many in this community did, and he will be sorely missed by all. He was a friend, brother, teammate, peer, and he was taken too soon.

Elizabeth Miller is a Pacer Notes columnist.

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