BALTIMORE, Md. (WDVM) — Today, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) launched two new resources targeted at supporting teens struggling with mental health issues. The Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit and MD Young Minds were developed by MDH’s Behavioral Health Administration (BHA).

“Engaging directly with young people struggling with mental health issues and putting more tools in the hands of individuals who work with them are critical interventions that can save lives,” MDH Secretary Dennis R. Schrader said in a release. “The new Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit and MD Young Minds initiatives are preventive and timely measures to help support our youth.”

One out of every five teens in Maryland consider attempting suicide in the past year, according to the 2021 Maryland Youth Pandemic Behavior Survey CDC data shows that visits to the emergency room for suspected suicide attempts increased in children during the pandemic, all while mental-health related visits to the emergency room for children ages 12 to 17 increased by 31% from 2019 to 2020.

In an effort to acknowledge the issue, BHA’s Office of Suicide Prevention partnered with the Maryland Association of Student CouncilsMaryland Youth Advisory CouncilCarroll County Local Management Board and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore to help develop the Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit. A release said it is designed for those who work with youth and provides detailed guidance, resources and fact sheets on the following topics:

  • Engaging youth and young adults in suicide prevention 
  • Best practices in LGBT+ youth suicide prevention 
  • Substance use disorders and suicidal behaviors in adolescents 
  • Depression screening 
  • Preventing suicide as a teacher and school mental health professional 
  • Social media and suicide prevention 
  • Advice for teens to check in with friends and peers
  • Guidance to support students who lose a friend or classmate to suicide
  • Targeted local and national resources

“Suicidal behaviors are complex and involve many contributing factors—sometimes stressful life circumstances can serve as a tipping point,” BHA Deputy Secretary Dr. Aliya Jones said in the release. “All of our young people will benefit from increased support during the pandemic. And we have found that two populations, particularly in need of attention, are our LGBTQ youth and young people who are using alcohol and drugs.”

Along with the toolkit, MDH has also launched MD Young Minds to help reach Maryland youth directly, through text. Teens can now get “supportive, youth-focused mental health messages and remind recipients that immediate access to mental health services is available statewide.”

Anyone who wants to sign up for MD Young Minds, you can text MDYOUNGMINDS to 898-211. To download the Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit, visit BHA’s website.

People experiencing thoughts of suicide should contact Maryland’s helpline by calling 211 and pressing 1, texting 898-211, or visiting pressone.211md.org.