ST. LOUIS – Depression and suicide are real challenges that many children and adults are facing daily. The isolation and disconnect that the COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat forced upon us don’t seem to be helping ease those thoughts and emotions either.
Mental health Index published a study in August showing depression among U.S. workers has climbed 102 percent since February 2020.
Take into account the millions of individuals who have lost their jobs or have been furloughed since March, savings accounts depleting, businesses struggling to stay afloat, and our youth taken out of school, isolated from their friends, and removed from activities since closures began in March – you could see how depression and thoughts of suicide could increase.
Marian McCord and her husband lost a child to suicide about 15 years ago. His name was Chad. From the outside looking in, Chad was the poster child of success. He was an honors student, a nationally recognized runner, and an Eagle ranked Boy Scout who his parents say had lots of friends and seemingly enjoyed being around people.
During Chad’s senior year of high school he told his parents he had been thinking about taking his own life since he was in the third grade. Six weeks before he was set to graduate from Oakville High School, those thoughts became a devastating reality.
“I lost my son to suicide. He like many kids was cream of the crop student and not on the radar, and I, like most parents, thought its never going to happen to my family,” said his mother, Marian McCord.
There are thousands of people like Chad who are suffering in silence. People who appear to be happy and doing well in life but internally are battling depression, loneliness, thoughts of worthlessness and suicide. In hopes of helping children, young adults, and families who may be fighting the same battle the McCord family did 15 years ago, they started CHADS Coalition for Mental Health.
CHADS is based right here and St. Louis and opperates through three main programs. The Signs of Suicide (S.O.S.) is a school based program that teaches middle and high school students about the signs of suicide, what to do when you notice those signs in yourself or a friend, and resources to help within local school districts
Marain said, “Last year CHADS talked to over 57 thousand middle and high school students and of those kids that we talked to 14.8% of them self-identified that they needed to talk to a school counselor either about themselves or a friends.”
Professionals advise that students in fifth grade or lower should not discuss suicide prevention, but based off of the McCord’s experience with Chad, they know younger children are struggling with depressiona as well. Their Social and Emotional Wellness program provides one on one mentoring for younger age groups. Teachers or parents can refer a child to this program if they feel they need extra emotional or behavioral support. Marian says this is one of their fastest growing programs.
CHADS also offers clinical online chats. If an individual identifies themselves as struggling with depression they can hop on their website and speak with professionals online. Half of the people who utilize their online clinical chats are actively suicidal.
“Suicide can happen to any child. Rich or poor. Black or white. Rural or in the city. There are no barriers to this illness,” said Marian. “Every one of us need to learn what are the warning signs, what do I need to do when I recognize those warning signs and connect them to mental health professionals in our community.”
In Missouri, suicide is reported as the 9th leading cause of death in adults and the 2nd leading cause in children. CHADS Coalition is one of the many amazing mental health and suicide awareness organizations in the St. Louis region that are working around the clock to combat this illness.
Suicide Prevention Hotlines and Services:
CHADS Coalition for Mental Health
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) St. Louis
Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Missouri Department of Mental Health
Missouri Suicide Prevention Network
AFSP Missouri 312-402-2006
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
CHADS Coalition will be hosting an hour-long virtual gala on Sunday, September 13 starting at 7 p.m. to raise money for CHADS programs and outreach. You can purchase tickets to this event on their website for $75.