Suicide Awareness


by Dr. Kim Burgess, Ph.D., Psychologist

While it is National Suicide Awareness Month in the USA, suicide clearly takes an enormous toll on individuals, families, friends, and communities worldwide. Among adolescents, suicide has been the second leading cause of death pre-pandemic; and initial data indicate that during covid-19 the number of suicides is rising. Mental health-related emergency department visits have greatly increased compared to pre-covid time periods. Together let’s go beyond “awareness” into mass prevention. How? Know the risk flags and take our kids to pediatricians and/or mental health providers for an evaluation and therapeutic help.

Even though no single cause can explain suicide risk, attempt or act, here are some warning signs:

  • Changes in usual eating or sleeping patterns, notable behavior changes, more risk-taking
  • Recently experienced a stressful life event, such as the loss of a loved one
  • Verbal expressions of hopelessness
  • Preoccupied with death and may actually talk about suicide
  • Reduces their usual socializing and not as interested in hanging out with friends anymore
  • Anyone who has attempted suicide before has a much greater risk of it happening again


Any self-harm or threats to oneself or others safety-wise requires immediate help. Comments that they’re going to do something to hurt themselves should be taken very seriously. Any potentially lethal weapons should be inaccessible. If a child cannot get in with someone immediately, such as an urgent appointment with their primary care physician, then go to the nearest emergency room. But still make the doctor’s appointment for follow through and receiving the necessary help.

When a child/adolescent seems depressed, take them to a mental health professional or to the pediatrician so that they can assess and refer your child to a specialist if needed. When you notice sadness, moodiness, a high frustration level, or frequent anger outbursts, take your child to a healthcare provider for a screening, referral and recommendations. Intervening with an evaluation and course of therapy by a trusted specialist can make an enormous difference in their lives!

Potomac Pediatrics is committed to ensuring all of our families’ health needs are met. We realize that communities have serious shortages regarding mental health care and now have additional therapists on board. Call 301-279-6750 for an appointment if you have concerns.

For helpful resources, see