The American Academy of Pediatrics and several other associations have declared the state of child and adolescent mental health a national emergency.
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24 in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Channel 9′s Scott Wickersham spoke to a family who lost their 19-year-old son to suicide in 2021. They are now sharing a message with other parents and children about their son’s struggle.
On the outside, Matias Rosado has everything going for him -- he was smart, handsome, a great hockey player and loved by his family. But on the inside, as he grew older, his parents, Rafael and Rachel Rosado, watched Matias begin to withdraw.
“We always call him the gentle giant -- 6′ 4″, academically strong, you know, summa cum laude from Marvin Ridge, got to Chapel Hill,” Rafael said.
Matias started therapy for social anxiety the fall of his junior year at Marvin Ridge High School in 2018. Weeks into his first term at the University of North Carolina in fall 2020, Matias and other students were sent home because of COVID-19. His parents said that isolating from school and friends didn’t help.
“You know, he was there, two different Matias. So there was the Matias that we knew growing up, up to a certain point, and as he got older, and the depression set in, it was a little bit different,” Rafael said. “Withdrawals, the panic attacks, the social anxiety, it escalated to self-harm with Matias. That was one of the symptoms. Like, before his first attempt, he was cutting himself, and that’s when we really started panicking. And that’s where we started with medication was when we saw the self-cutting, and that was roughly five or six months before his first suicide attempt.”
Matias was diagnosed with clinical depression and started medication in November 2020.
The next year, Rachel and Rafael thought Matias was starting to get better. He had a girlfriend and was talking about re-enrolling at UNC. His parents begged him to keep fighting.
“Most parents don’t ever have to say, ‘You know, just give us time. Please give us time, just work with us and give us time.’ And he promised he would give us time,” Rachel said.
And Matias did -- he fought as long as he could. But on July 17, 2021, Matias died by suicide at 19 years old. He left notes for his friends and his parents.
“He was in pain. He was really hurting, and he really didn’t want to hurt us with his decision. And he wanted us to understand. And it was, I thought that he tried to let us down in the most loving way,” Rachel said.
How can you help your loved ones?
Trying to create positive change from their tragedy, the Rosados created the Matias Rosado Foundation that is dedicated to youth mental health. They connect young people with resources and help, and support other groups that do the same.
The organization also pushes for change. The Rosados said the science needs to improve to help children in need.
“Scientists, doctors don’t know how to treat this disease really yet. It’s more like, take a pill for six weeks, see how you feel. Oh, that didn’t work. Let’s try another pill for six weeks,” Rafael said.
While they hope the treatment and understanding of depression will improve, the Rosados have advice for children who may feel the way their son did.
“Think if the kids are watching, I would say, reach out and just say, ‘You need help to friends, or parents or just give people a chance to help you.’”
The Rosados encourage parents to have those hard conversations with their children. Don’t be afraid to say the word “suicide,” and know the warning signs, such as:
- Sharing thoughts of suicide.
- Statements about wanting to die, be dead or self-harm.
- Strong feelings that they may never get better.
- Withdrawal from everyone and everything, or feeling unusually angry.
It’s important they know there is help. Here are a few suggestions:
- Ask them if they are OK and listen.
- Tell them you are worried and concerned and that they are not alone.
- Get other people involved, like a counselor.
The Rosados said they found a shortage of available psychiatrists when Matias had emergency situations. After calling and calling, they said no one could see him within 48 hours.
Now, they are talking with the Steve Smith Family Foundation about supporting their behavioral health urgent care center in east Charlotte. It should open early next year. Click here for more information.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE AND RESOURCES:
- Charlotte’s Hidden Crisis: The importance of mental health in our children
- Mental Health & Our Kids: Here’s what parents should know
- Local school counselor creates safe place where students can reset
- Mental Health Resources: Programs and organizations helping children, teens
- ‘Very scared’: Woman with late OCD diagnosis shares what it was like to grow up with disorder
(WATCH BELOW: Here’s how CMS is ensuring students have mental health resources they need)