Addressing The Youth Mental Health Emergency: We Need A Shift

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash
  • 1 out of 5 students reports being bullied. (Pacer.org)
  • Every 100 minutes a teen takes their life. (suicide.org)
  • Depression in teens has increased 47% since 2013. (BCBS)
  • By middle school, up to 70% of girls are dissatisfied with their bodies (MACMH)
  • 46% of teens who struggle with sexual orientation contemplate suicide. (Reuters)

From these numbers, anyone can see that our youth are in crisis. Factors at play are many and mounting and are exacerbated by a shortage of mental health professionals and well-resourced facilities dedicated to youth mental health as well as a woeful lack of affordable mental health treatment options. Top that off with the stigmas associated with sharing one’s personal struggles, and the result is that young people are too often left to “deal” on their own, with sometimes tragic outcomes.

Especially given current events, I want to stress the importance of being sensitive to the emotional health of the young people in our lives, checking in with them regularly to understand how they are processing this crisis emotionally and intellectually, and recognizing that they might need additional support.

In a previous post (Stigmas), I suggested a self check to gauge whether any unconscious stigmas are impacting the way we respond to signs that a young person is in distress. For the safety and well-being of our youth, now is the time to acknowledge these stigmas and let them go. You’ll find a list of signs someone is struggling and what you can do to help here: (Signs).

It’s time for a complete shift in how we view and talk about mental health. As parents and caregivers, we have an opportunity to create trust, provide a space for young people to open up and have authentic conversations about their experiences, and support them in seeking appropriate care and treatment. I recently published an article on Thrive Global about the importance of providing a safe space for the young people in our lives to talk about what they’re going through, as well as some tips on how to do this. I’ve also provided a short list of resources that are available to everyone who needs them in the disclaimer below.

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant as professional advice or counseling. If you are in emotional distress or experiencing thoughts of harm to yourself or others, help is available 24/7:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800–273–8255 (TALK) Spanish & English; Deaf & Hard of Hearing TTY 800–799–4889
  • Text HELLO to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor
  • Call 911
  • If you need mental health treatment but cannot afford it, contact Rise Above The Disorder, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to making mental health care accessible to everyone: YouAreRAD.org

A former licensed psychiatric social worker for 12 years, she is currently developing a multi-platform content series about mental health. ShiftTheShow.com