As the U.S. continues to face mental health and opioid crises, children are often some of the most impacted. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among young people ages 10-24 increased by 62% from 2007 to 2021.

A disturbing and growing trend among children and adolescents is the use of poison. The Upstate New York Poison Center discussed this, and what families can do to keep their children safe.

Vince Calleo, medical director at the Upstate New York Poison Center, says they’ve seen a significant rise in self-harm attempts among children and adolescents by poisoning. He can’t say this is directly caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but...

“The time course with the pandemic occurring and that big rise in the number of self-harm attempts in the children and adolescents, I think, certainly, lineup," he said.

In a study released by UVA Health last year, suspected self-poisoning suicide attempts made by adolescents increased by 30% from 2019-2021.

“Some of the things we see most commonly used in self-harm attempts by children are going to include a lot of readily available medications, including things like acetaminophen and ibuprofen," Calleo said.

He says a lot of factors contribute to the type of reaction someone may have from an overdose, making every situation unique. Typically, it would take a large amount of ibuprofen and other similar medications to cause a life-threatening scenario. But others can be more intense.

“There are some medications where, if you take as little as one to two pills, you could have a really severe life-threatening consequence," he said. "Some of those ones that we worry more about are certain types of depression medications and certain types of heart medications.”

Not buying medicine in bulk can prevent these incidents.

“Keeping medications and anything that’s dangerous in a medication lockbox," Calleo said. "This just helps to serve as an additional barrier to decrease the chances that a child, or really anyone, might have access to a medication.”

As a licensed clinical social worker, Khira Fryar helps children overcome their mental health struggles. She believes silencing children at a young age can lead to mental health issues and suicidal thoughts.

“There’s a phrase that I hate, that I’ve hated forever, like 'a child is to be seen and not heard,'" she said. "If you shut a child down enough, they’ll continue to isolate and then they’ll continue to feel like what I have to say is not important, what I bring to the table is not worthy, so why am I here?”

Talking about this with children could save their life.

“I think sometimes people think that if you talk about suicide, if you mention suicide, that you put the idea in their heads," Fryar said. "Guarantee you, the kids have already been thinking about it if you’re at this stage.”

“Keeping things out of sight, out of reach, locked up, using lock boxes is going to be very important as well," said Calleo.

The poison center has certified specialists trained in poison information and toxicology. They’re available 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222 when an emergency occurs.

The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988.