Teens are at the heart of Lake Country Growers. As mother's of teenagers both Rebecca and Maureen love engaging their children and other teens in the day to day operations of the farm and the business. They have first hand seen the struggles that todays children are experiencing. Although May was Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s something that deserves attention year round. Therefore, we reached out to a friend that is very experienced in mental health, especially when it comes to children. Amy McKenzie is an RN and Care Manager at Mercy Child Adolescent Partial Program and we were chatting about how the pandemic has changed things tremendously. Amy and her coworker Mckenzee Renkema, PLMHP Program Therapist at CHI Mercy, stressed how important it is to be mindful of what our children may be experiencing and gave us tips to share with you.
It’s obvious that kids need additional care during these ever-changing times but we didn’t realize to what extent. Before COVID-19 changed the world, her program had always had a steady flow of kids needing services. Now, they are so busy that they have a waitlist to get into the program. It’s not just her program that is seeing an influx of patients so we thought this would be a great opportunity for her to explain what we can do to help the children around us.
Take a moment and read through these alarming statistics from the Mental Health America report:
- Youth mental health is worsening. 9.7% of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression, compared to 9.2% in last year’s dataset. This rate was highest among youth who identify as more than one race, at 12.4%.
- 60% of youth with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment in 2017-2018. Even in states with the greatest access, over 38% are not receiving the mental health services they need.
- Young people are struggling most with their mental health. The proportion of youth ages 11-17 who accessed screening was 9 percent higher than the average in 2019. Not only are the number of youth searching for help with their mental health increasing, but throughout the COVID-19 pandemic youth ages 11-17 have been more likely than any other age group to score for moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Rates of suicidal ideation are highest among youth, especially LGBTQ+ youth. In September 2020, over half of 11-17-year-olds reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm more than half or nearly every day of the previous two weeks. From January to September 2020, 77,470 youth reported experiencing frequent suicidal ideation, including 27,980 LGBTQ+ youth.
Reminder: Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about yourself or your child. This piece was written based on an interview with trained professionals. It is not medical advice and should not be used in lieu of seeking out professional help.
One of the most important things to realize about mental health is that someone can be hurting on the inside without anyone on the outside knowing. This goes for children and adults alike. It is possible that someone could be going through a harmful thought process such as negative self-image, destructive actions or even suicidal ideation without there being many indicators. Even if there are clues that something is off, many times it is hard to pinpoint their reactions. For example, it could be apparent that a panic attack is happening but maybe it isn’t clear what triggered it.
Some of the changes that professionals have noticed lately are more cases of self-isolation, an increase of electronic activity, and decreased socialization. They have also noticed that relationships among family members have suffered due to lack of communication as a family unit as well as increased anxiety. These changes are leading to a rise in the need for mental health services, even for those who didn’t need them prior to the pandemic.
Now, this all may seem a bit scary (which it totally can be!) but don’t freak out just yet. There are some things you can work on at home and there is absolutely no shame in asking for professional help. One of the best ways parents can support their teens during these most difficult years is by being supportive and open-minded. This is not an overnight process. Establishing trust that you are a safe person to talk to takes time. In order to do so, it’s extremely important to promote an open, honest, and non-judgmental environment at home with your child. Amy explained that growing together as a family and showing that you understand that society has changed since you were a child can drastically help with this situation.
In addition to being supportive and open-minded, it is also helpful to become educated on things such as gender, sexuality, and mental health in general. When you show that you are invested in understanding what is going on in today’s world and how it affects your children, they will be more likely to feel comfortable in sharing their experience with you. It may open the conversation more if you seek out this knowledge from your child, in addition to your own research, to learn more about the world from their point of view.
Mental health struggles look different for every person. It may be time to seek professional help if you notice self-isolation, withdrawal, lack of communication, inactivity, not eating, and extreme fatigue. If you’re a parent and want to begin having a conversation with your teen about getting help, it’s imperative that you continue being supportive, calm, and open-minded. Do not search for solutions, do not bring up past experiences, and try to meet them halfway.
Activities at home that can help deal with excess stress include going on walks, engaging in family activities, taking breaks, having nightly talks, reading, and coloring. These are great things to do together as a family and can often be relationship-building activities that lead to more open conversation.
One commonality that we’ve noticed is the negative stigma around getting help. You’d be surprised how many people let us know how our products have helped them but don’t want others to know that they use CBD, even though it is completely legal. Some may wait longer or don’t seek help at all because they’re afraid of what others might think. Please, if you need it, get help! There’s no shame in talking to a mental healthcare provider. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your family!