America’s teens in crisis: Mental health issues are now the biggest concern

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Mental health disorders are a major concern among American adolescents, according to researchers who said the pervasiveness of these illnesses was not a major concern decades ago.

Indeed, 30 years ago, most health experts reported that the top concerns for teens included pregnancy, smoking, drunk driving, and excessive alcohol consumption.

However, new statistics have revealed that in 2019, 13% of teens reported having had a major depressive episode, which Pew Research found was a 60% increase from 2007.

The report found that emergency room visits by children and adolescents during this period also rose sharply for anxiety, mood disorders and self-harm.

And for people ages 10 to 24, suicide rates, flat from 2000 to 2007, jumped nearly 60% in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additionally, the mental health of young Black Americans “was in crisis long before COVID-19 devastated the world, but no national public health crisis has been called,” said psychiatry resident Dr. Amanda Calhoun. adult/child at Yale Child Study Center at Yale School of Medicine, wrote for Med Page Today.

“In 2019, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health released a report documenting the alarming increase in black youth suicide rates,” noted the Dr. Calhoun.

“Black youth suicide death rates have increased faster than those of any other racial/ethnic group in America, and black youth under 13 are twice as likely to die by suicide as their white peers. “

Dr. Calhoun also cited preliminary federal data that noted that the suicide rate among black girls and women aged 10 to 24 had increased by more than 30% in 2020 and by 23% among black boys and men. of the same age group.

“Yet many predictive models of suicide continue to list ‘white race’ as a factor that increases suicide risk, and the myth that young black people don’t commit suicide persists,” Dr. Calhoun reported.

During the pandemic, children, teens and young adults have faced unprecedented challenges – the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed their worlds, including the way they attend school, interact with friends and receive health care.

Children missed first days of school, months or even years of in-person schooling, graduation ceremonies, sports competitions, appointments, according to a 52-page opinion by US surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy. yourself and time with parents.

As of June 2021, more than 140,000 children in the United States have lost a parent or grandparent to COVID-19.

Matt Richtel, best-selling author and New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, spent more than a year interviewing teens and their families for a series about the mental health crisis.

“In mid-April, I was talking to the mother of a suicidal teenager whose struggles I follow closely. I asked how his daughter was doing,” Richtel reported.

“Not well,” said the mother.

“If we can’t come up with something drastic to help this kid, this kid won’t be here long term.” Richtel said the mother started crying.

“It’s out of our hands, it’s out of our control,” she said. “We try everything.”

She added: “It’s like waiting for the end.”

Over the course of nearly 18 months of reporting, Richtel said he met numerous teens and their families and interviewed dozens of doctors, therapists and teen science experts.

“I heard heartbreaking stories of pain and uncertainty. From the outset, my editors and I discussed how best to manage the identity of people in crisis,” he wrote.

Richtel’s discovery only amplified what medical experts have been circulating.

Since the start of the pandemic, rates of psychological distress among young people have increased, including symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders.

“Recent research involving 80,000 young people worldwide found that depressive and anxiety symptoms had doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of young people showing depressive symptoms and 20% showing anxiety symptoms,” Dr Murthy wrote in his opinion. .

According to the CDC, negative emotions or behaviors such as impulsivity and irritability — associated with conditions like ADHD — appear to have moderately increased.

In addition, early clinical data also proved problematic.

At the start of 2021, emergency room visits in the United States for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for teenage girls and 4% higher for teenage boys compared to the same period in early 2019.

“Additionally, pandemic-related measures have reduced face-to-face interactions between children, friends, social supports and professionals such as teachers, school counsellors, pediatricians and child protection workers. wrote Dr. Murthy.

“It made it harder to recognize signs of child abuse, mental health issues and other issues.”

The CDC further noted that young people also encountered other challenges that may have affected their mental and emotional well-being during the pandemic.

These include the national death toll of black Americans at the hands of police, including the murder of George Floyd.

This includes COVID-related violence against Asian Americans, gun violence, increasingly polarized political dialogue, growing concerns about climate change, and emotionally charged misinformation.

“The pandemic has been difficult for most people, but the adolescent population, especially women, has suffered tremendously,” clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly explained in a recent email.

“Given the importance of social connections during adolescence, many teens have felt extremely isolated, lonely and depressed due to the compelling nature of the pandemic,” Dr. Manly said.

“Many teens have turned to using social media to connect, but social media has its own host of stressors and often increases anxiety and can foster low self-esteem.”

Dr Manly said parents and carers who have teens struggling with anxiety or depression are often confused and unsure which way to go.

Many parents worry that talking about the problem “will only make it worse.”

“Yet in truth, teenagers – even the most independent ones – need the constant presence and gentle guidance of their parents,” Dr. Manly said.

Cathy Mills, chief strategy officer for Net Influencer, insisted that balancing work life and mental health is crucial.

“I consider it very important that employers and family members, in particular, support young people in the process of depression and anxiety,” Mills advised.

“Something that has worked with my family members is offering me treatment to young people. Today, people are very focused on meeting the needs of others and forget that being good with yourself is the most important thing for success in all areas of life,” she continued.

“In these treatments, it is important to write in journals, do meditations, play sports, dance and even travel alone. These actions will make young people more confident and have better mental health, which will help them will allow you to face any situation or challenge at work and in everyday life.

Dr. Jeannette R. Craigfeld, who practices clinical psychology at The Therapy Group of DC in northwest Washington, said friends and family need to listen and understand a loved one’s perspective.

“Let them know that you’re ready to listen to them whenever they want to talk and that you can also just sit down with them if that’s what they need,” Dr. Craigfeld demanded.

“Give your loved one permission to be wherever they are with their depression and anxiety and not have to force themselves to look good around you.”

Dr. Craigfeld continued:

“Remember that there are no easy fixes for mental illness. It’s hard to do with someone you love, because it’s hard to hear that they’re in pain. Still, it’s important to remember that listening to and understanding them will relieve your loved ones of their depression and anxiety far more than anything else you could do.

“It’s also important to make sure you’re also taking care of yourself, because it’s hard to take care of others if you’re not at your best first. Allow yourself to take time for yourself whenever you need it and to do things that calm you down.

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