ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Poison Control Center is receiving an increase in calls related to self-harm overdoses in children. The center reported a 324% increase in self-harm overdose calls among 13 to 19-year-olds since 2005.
According to Ari Filip, the medical director for the Arkansas Poison Control Center, there’s also been an 800% increase in self-harm overdose calls among kids younger than 12 since 2005.
“More than one in every 20 calls is not about some kid that gets into extra toothpaste or someone that accidentally switches up their meds, but it’s a patient less than 19 years of age that tries to harm themselves,” Filip said.
Filip said the pandemic and mental health issues have not made the situation any easier. It’s something that he said needs to be at the forefront of people’s consciousness in Arkansas. The most common drug overdoses are over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin.
In order to keep medications away from kids, Filip said keeping a lockbox with dangerous medications can help, but for older kids, it may be harder to keep medications out of their reach. Filip cautions that overdoses are often impulsive and can happen to kids of any age.
“There’s no way to predict these sorts of things, and I really want to caution people away from saying, ‘Oh, this could never happen to my child’,” Filip said.
Nathan Winiecki is a LAC at Living Well Counseling in Fort Smith. He said there could be a number of reasons attributed to the uptick in self-harm incidents among children, ranging from issues with peers and depression to the pandemic and social media.
On a state level, Winiecki says it all goes back to awareness. He believes the state is doing a good job at spreading awareness, but more can still be done to ensure there are plenty of mental health professionals, support of counselors and teachers at the school level, and making sure churches are informed and equipped with tools that they need.
Winiecki said there are signs you can look for in kids who may be struggling with their mental health, such as withdrawing, angry outbursts, a sudden new group of friends and a dramatic change in appearance. According to Winiecki, it’s always a good idea to ask your kids questions and have conversations about therapy.
“Sometimes we dismiss it by saying, ‘Well, they’re teenagers. That’s just the way teenagers are,’ When really there is something going on that we should be concerned about,” Winiecki said.
The Arkansas Poison Control Center’s phone number is 1-800-222-1222. The 24-hour National suicide crisis hotline is 988.