Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Check up on teens' mental health this school year

This interview originally aired on In the Moment on SDPB Radio.

Mental health issues and suicide are pressing issues facing South Dakota's youth. What can you do to keep the teens in your life safe?

Vanessa Barnes is assistant director at the Department of Social Services, Division of Behavioral Health. She has four steps to take if you're concerned about the mental health of a loved one.

Step one: Ask.
The easiest way to tell if someone is having a mental health crisis is to ask. It starts with "how are you doing?" and opening the door to a deeper conversation.

Asking someone if they're contemplating suicide will not plant the idea in their head. Research shows it's not a dangerous thing to do. Instead, it's an important first step.

Step two: Listen.
It can be difficult to be empathetic and take on the pain of someone you love. But it's vital that someone going through a crisis feels heard.

Step three: Keep them safe and connect them with help.
If you think they're going to hurt themselves, stay with them and connect them with resources right away.

Call or text 988 immediately. That number will connect you to trained mental health professionals available 24/7. These professionals can deescalate the situation and provide further mental health resources.

Learn more about 988.

Step four: Follow up.
Check in on a regular basis with them. Make a schedule, and plan to have ongoing conversations about their mental health.

Lori Walsh is the host and senior producer of In the Moment.
Ellen Koester is a producer of In the Moment, SDPB's daily news and culture broadcast.
Ari Jungemann is a producer of In the Moment, SDPB's daily news and culture broadcast.