The State of Youth Mental Health
Youth & Mental Health
In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon general Vivek Murthy issued a warning about the state of youth mental health. According to the surgeon general, children and young adults were already facing a mental health crisis before the Coronavirus Pandemic began; one in three high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, a 40% increase from 2009 to 2019, he said. Also, suicide rates went up during that time by 57% among youth ages 10 to 24. During the pandemic, rates of anxiety and depression have increased. The pandemic has made the issues worse. Mr. Murthy, asserts “this is a critical issue that we have to do something about now.” “We can’t wait until after the pandemic is over (L.Ritchie, 2021, npr.org).
Know the signs: recognizing mental health concerns in youth
Warning signs & symptoms of mental health conditions:
• Problems with concentration, memory, or ability to think clearly
• Changes in appetite
• Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or worthless
• Loss of interest in things that they used to enjoy
• Excessive worry
• Irritability or restlessness
• Changes in sleep
• Angry Outbursts
• Not wanting to be around people or take part in activities
• Hearing or seeing things that other people do not
• Extreme Panic
• The onset of new behaviors or rituals that are repeated
• Mood swings or frequent shifts in energy
• Changes in how they dress-if your child is wearing long pants and sleeves in hot weather, or hats suddenly. They could be hiding signs of self-injury like cutting or hair pulling (List compiled by Silence the shame).
Note: Parents who may recognize any of these signs and symptoms in their youth/adolescents should seek help from a licensed mental health professional.
Tips for helping kids thrive during times of uncertainty
Amidst the rising concerns of the Covid variant numbers, schools open, or schools closed. Despite everything that is going on around us—there are ways to thrive during uncertain times.
• Make sure to check in with your kids and family members
• Have a conversation with your kids about their concerns as it relates to the possibilities of school closures and vaccinations.
• Help them to establish a routine, which may include outside time, schoolwork, reading, meals, exercising, chores, and family activities. Younger children may benefit from storybooks. The child may resonate and empathize with the character’s feelings, which helps the child feel less alone with his or her own. During this time, it is important to continue helping kids thrive (E. Leonard, Ph.D., 2020-Peaceful Parenting ).