By Robin Clutters

(CBS4)– September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. According to the CDC, trips to the emergency room due to suicide attempts increased during the pandemic.

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Whitney Kearney is a licensed professional counselor with the HealthONE Behavioral Health and Wellness Center. On CBSN Denver, she told us the pandemic has created additional challenges for everyone. Kearney says it’s important to practice self-care during these difficult times. She stresses the importance of maintaining healthy habits like exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep.

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“We are certainly seeing an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression, even in individuals that maybe have never experienced these challenges before. We want to encourage anyone struggling right now to really engage in social interactions and talk to those trusted people in their lives about what they’re feeling.”

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Depression and anxiety can impact people of all ages. Warning signs include social withdrawal, increased mood swings, feelings of hopelessness and increased agitation. For parents, it’s important to create a safe space for children to talk about their feelings.

“I would encourage parents to have an open dialogue. Check in with your kids. Ask them, ‘How are you feeling?’ Create a platform where it’s safe to talk about feelings and emotions.”

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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, confidential support 24/7. Call 1-800-273-8255 for help. HealthONE also has an assessment and referral center that’s available 24/7 at (844) 556-2012.

Robin Clutters