Acting on the mental health crisis of young people is a medical and moral obligation

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Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General, has sounded the alarm about the youth mental health crises facing our country, with unprecedented challenges made even more severe by the pandemic. His recent report was as clear as it was disastrous.

“The unfathomable pandemic-era death toll, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stress young people were already under. faced,” Murthy wrote. “Our obligation to act is not just medical – it’s moral.”

Our children are simply coping with the effects of the world in which they are growing up. A global health crisis, massive geopolitical unrest, including war in Ukraine, growing climate concerns, and continued racial and political division in the United States are fueling this decline in the general mental well-being of our young people. Regardless of the intention with which we try to protect our children, they are inevitably affected by these massive forces that influence everyone, everywhere.

It’s clear that massive, intentional action is needed to create better outcomes for physical health and mental well-being. Our plans must go beyond solving our current situation – they must look to the future and build towards a better future.

For starters, we need to reframe the issue of mental well-being. It’s time to ask different questions.

“What’s wrong with you?” instead of “What happened to you?”

“What is strong with you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”

Once we ask the right questions, we can tackle mental health issues head on, together, as a community.

But what if we all came together to create better systems that could transform the future for us and our children? We need to develop a holistic approach that brings together doctors, therapists, teachers, social workers and other diverse experts in relevant fields of study. Involve parents, civic leaders, clergy and all members of the community. An intentional community response is essential because everyone in the city benefits from improving the mental health of its citizens.

A comprehensive solution doesn’t just throw money at the problem and hope that overburdened schools, government programs and social service agencies take over, although adequate funding is important. No, a comprehensive plan means looking at all aspects of the issues we face.

For example, a recent study on adolescent mental health found that proper diet, nutrition, and exercise can reduce depression in young people, and that’s exactly the kind of idea we should be acting on. We need to look at health care and prescription costs, and destigmatize and decriminalize mental health. We need to increase the number of qualified providers of mental health services and remove barriers to accessing this care.

Beech Acres Parenting Center wants to be part of the change. As summer approaches, please know that our local school mental health teams are ready to continue providing services to students. Our experienced Parent Connext team is on hand to meet with parents one-on-one to support them in everything from separation anxiety to on-screen battles. With All Families staff are equipped to support foster families, related families, and any family facing challenges and difficulties that need empathy and help to connect to resources.

This is the time to be curious and discover solutions with the community. Hear and see what’s happening in our schools, playgrounds, parks and neighborhoods. Test possible solutions and learn from our failures. Create accountability by establishing ways to share access to data that is easy to find and understand. Make kindness and empathy the norm. Successes can be shared and spread from neighborhood to neighborhood and community to community.

Let’s stop facing a decline in mental well-being and transform our community into a healthy and positive environment where our children can thrive.

Laura Mitchell is President and CEO of Beech Acres Parenting Center in Anderson Township.


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