Local professors weigh in on the link between marijuana usage, depression and suicide in teens

NORFOLK, Va. - Researchers at Old Dominion University say they provided insight on a link between marijuana usage, depression and suicide in teens.

Narketta Sparkman-Key, Associate Professor of Counseling & Human Services, says there is a growing number of teens dying because of suicide.

On Wednesday, Dr. Key held a meeting to talk to parents about the warning signs of mental illness.

She says when a child has a crisis, not every parent knows what to do or who to turn to for help, but that's not the case for Jessica Gurley. Her daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, so she says every day takes understanding and patience.

"We're always fighting to improve [and we're always] fighting to help our children. Everybody wants their child to do better," Gurley says.

At the event, Dr. Key talked about how she has studied mental health for years. She says if it's not addressed, symptoms in young people can turn to depression.

Related: Nearly 1 in 7 US kids and teens has a mental health condition, and half go untreated, study says 

She says these days kids get too wrapped up in social media, which can lead to cyberbullying. With that, Key says it can be hard for them to learn to cope with their emotions.

Many times, she has seen kids and teenagers turn to using drugs like marijuana.

Related: Could drug therapy help teens stop vaping? The FDA thinks it might 

"We need to educate [the kids] that socializing with these drugs can have other impacts on their mental health such as depression and suicide," Key says.

Here are some warning signs that your child may be struggling:

  • Increased feelings of sadness
  • Feeling incredibly angry, even for no apparent reason
  • Feeling hopeless or empty
  • Being irritable or annoyed
  • Feeling tired and don't have as much energy as normal
  • They may be sleeping too much
  • Insomnia
  • Their weight may change - decreased or increased appetite
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
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