Suicide attempts send increasing numbers of teen girls to emergency rooms in La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Suicidal thoughts affect people of all ages.

But teen girls seem to be feeling the most impact right now, health workers say.

“During the adolescence, they are at the peak for suicidal thoughts,” said Angela Barnes, an adolescent therapist at Gundersen Health System.

Emergency room visits have risen for teen girls who have attempted to take their own lives — or considered doing so — during the pandemic, Barnes said.

Changes in family and school, as well as social media, are contributing factors, she said.

“Females have for a very long time engaged in self-harm more frequently and more often than males,” Barnes said.

The trend at Gundersen mirrors what’s happening on state and national levels.

Last winter, 50 percent more girls ages 12 through 17 were admitted to emergency rooms for suicide attempts compared with winter of 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, .

A report from the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health also shows a similar trend.

But director Linda Hall says the pandemic could have some silver linings for these teens.

“Their behaviors that are indicating a suicide risk are being noticed,” Hall said. “We’re hopeful they’re getting help before anything more serious would happen.”

One way to get teens help is by putting them in touch with more adult support, she said.

“When kids feel connected, they feel like they belong,” Hall said.

That’s why there are resources such as Great Rivers 2-1-1, where staff are available around the clock.

“It’s always safe for people to call here, no matter what,” line supervisor Amy Kuester said.

The service offers advice to people, especially young girls, that it’s OK to seek help whenever they need it.

Calls to 2-1-1 relating to mental health and addiction are up 14 percent since the pandemic began, Kuester said.

Local health-care provider and school counselors are good resources, Barnes said.

Mental health resources include:

Recent News Headlines from News 8 Now  
Wisconsin children’s mental health is declining, exacerbated by pandemic, state agency says 

Passport, please? Twin Cities to require proof of vaccination or negative test to get into bars, restaurants

La Crosse School District weighs in as family for former student sues over injury on field trip
123% spike in COVID-19 cases prompts La Crosse County Health Department appeal for vaccinations