SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) — The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of kids, new research shows suicide attempts may be on the rise.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the number of children going to the emergency room for suspected suicide attempts has increased, especially for teenage girls, who saw a 50% increase in early 2021 compared to 2019.

The NIMH reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults in the U.S.

Steve Moore with the Illinois chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said remote learning may be a contributing factor.

“The way schools had to address it with remote learning which really reduces the ability to socialize,” Moore said.

Most schools were in remote learning mode during the 2020-2021 school year. Some school districts remained virtual at the beginning of this school year.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois High School Association were sued by the mother of a suicide victim who believes her son’s death was a “proximate cause” of the state’s restrictions. The suit filed in LaSalle County by Lisa Moore and four other parents accused Pritzker of canceling or indefinitely delaying high school sports and activities while allowing college sports to continue.

An Illinois school safety helpline aimed at giving kids a place to report information that might prevent suicide or bullying was expanded statewide in October. Available 24/7 at no cost to schools, Safe2Help Illinois allows students unable to confide in a trusted adult to reach out via an app, text, phone or at Safe2HelpIL.com.

Moore said it is important to reach out to someone if you are feeling down.

“People should take advantage of whatever health care, mental health services they can, and even within family and friends have an open, honest dialog,” Moore said.

The suicide prevention hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK. Beginning in July, the new national number will be 988.

By KEVIN BESSLER for the Illinois Radio Network