May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, and it comes as a recent survey from the Center for Disease Control showed more than 4 in 10 teens reporting they feel “persistently sad or hopeless,” and 1 in 5 saying “they have contemplated suicide.” The survey builds on calls from experts ringing the alarm about mental health for young people. In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health, saying that its members were “caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, and their communities.”
With millions of more guns in homes and additional fear and stress from the pandemic, there is an elevated risk for a continued youth gun suicide crisis that has been rising for over a decade. Over the past decade, the firearm suicide rate among young people has increased faster than in any other age group and today, it’s at a near all-time high. Research also shows that having access to a firearm triples the risk of gun suicide – for all ages.
Since the pandemic, children and teens have experienced new stressors including loss of a parent, financial security, health, and increased gun violence. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States. More than 3,500 children and teens are shot and killed every year and another 15,000 are shot and wounded, and approximately three million are exposed to gun violence. And it’s not just gunfire on school grounds that has created this crisis, gun violence in cities, communities, at home have contributed to the fear and stress children and teens face.
To address mental health in the gun violence prevention movement, Students Demand Action volunteers have spent years building infrastructure to support their peers. Volunteers have created systems to “step up and step back,” to take care of their mental health while advocating for gun safety. In addition to creating systems internally, Students Demand Action volunteers have also partnered with Active Minds, The Trevor Project, and other organizations to host events, share resources, and build a stronger foundation to support young advocates.
More information about how gun violence affects children and teens is available here. To speak with a Students Demand Action volunteer, please don’t hesitate to reach out.