Mental Health Awareness Month: It’s time to recognize that children are not well | Local News

Pediatric experts say that mental health issues in children are on the rise, and in fact, children are not doing well.

Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Association of Children’s Hospitals declared a national state of emergency for child and adolescent mental health.

They called for several things, including increased funding for child and youth mental health resources and better care for students with mental health issues in schools.

“We are seeing more requests for psychiatric assessments and treatment referrals, the number of emergency visits for children is up, probably around 25% to 33%,” said Dr Gary Swanson, psychiatrist for children and adolescents at the Allegheny Health Network. “We have more teenagers coming to the ER in crisis.”

At the same time, Swanson pointed out, there are too few providers and hospitals available to meet demand.

“It is difficult to find psychiatric beds. If a child needs hospitalization, it can take days or weeks for a bed to become available, and that was not the case five years ago in western Pennsylvania,” a- he declared. “The number of crises is increasing, but it’s harder to get services, and that makes it difficult.”

Teenagers are facing challenges never imagined in the past – pressure from social media, school shootings, climate change and the opioid epidemic, in addition to worries about grades, friends, relationships and the parents.

Young people were increasingly suffering from mental health problems before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has made them worse.

Rates of mental health problems and suicide among children rose steadily between 2010 and 2020, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24, Swanson noted. One in five children struggles with a mental illness.

The spike in mental health issues is one reason local school districts have made efforts to provide more mental health resources to students.

Since 2011, the Bentworth School District has worked with Centerville Clinics to provide mental health counseling and child psychiatry services on campus.

“What we’ve seen this year is that our mental health curriculum is full in elementary, middle and high school. There are nearly 50 students, and we have had discussions about expansion. The need is definitely there,” said Superintendent Scott of Bentworth.

Martin, noting that students have the opportunity to meet with one of Centerville’s 10 mental health professionals multiple times throughout the day.

In an eight-year period before the pandemic, the partial program served 88 high school students from 10 school districts and saw hospitalizations drop from 198 to 47; and suicide attempts resulting in hospitalization fell from 29 to 6.

“We know that this program is beneficial for students. If this program weren’t available, students wouldn’t have the same opportunities – here they have their mental health needs met and have a real high school experience.

The Burgettstown Area School District set up a Middle School Wellness Room at the start of the 2021-22 school year where struggling students can take a break and relax. A dozen students start their day in the room, which includes soft light, yoga balls, a diffuser and soothing music, and offers soothing activities such as coloring books, toys, modeling clay , kinetic sand and meditation.

Students can also visit the room at midday and midday.

“The level of depression and anxiety has certainly increased in children. Their mental health is generally not good,” said Beth Roman, a guidance counselor at Burgettstown Middle School, who, along with teacher Elizabeth Bebo, started the project. “I’ve wanted to do this for a while. We’ve had very positive feedback from the kids.”

Fort Cherry School District is one of eight school districts to receive a grant from Staunton Farm to start a Students In Action team to support classmates struggling with mental health issues.

Students conducted five mini-sessions for their peers aimed at building confidence and building a positive mindset to achieve goals related to academic, emotional, and social well-being.

The team received a Gold Excellence banner from the executive director of Multiplying Good of Pittsburgh for their service to the school community.

The Jefferson-Morgan School District marked Mental Health Awareness Month with several activities, including a 5,000 mile Color Run for Mental Health Awareness.

Students also participated in the University of Waynesburg Suicide Awareness Walk and were encouraged to wear green for Mental Health Awareness Day.

At the Connellsville Area School District, administrators and staff work to educate students about mental health resources available in the district, including its Student Assistance Program, and accessibility to school counselors and Chestnut Counselors. Ridge Counseling Services.

“We have seen that COVID has intensified and multiplied mental health issues – the isolation students have been forced to find themselves in, the lack of camaraderie with their peers, the lack of direct involvement with teachers,” said said Dr. Joseph Bradley, Superintendent of Connellsville. Area school district. “The good thing, though, is that we’re talking about it more, taking care of it more. Conversations flow better because we talk about it more and tell the kids it’s okay to feel that way, it’s not a weakness.

AHN has partnered with several school districts to offer CHILL, a school-based therapy program that teaches mindfulness techniques and coping skills to help students better manage pressure and anxiety.

Swanson encouraged children and teens to share their feelings. He praised athletes, including Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, for sharing their mental health struggles, and for the Judd sisters for speaking out about the role mental illness played in the recent passing of their mother, Naomi Judd.

“Talking about things is essential. People think they should put up with it in silence, but the reality is if you let someone know what’s upsetting or bothering you, there are people out there to help you,” Swanson said. “It takes courage to say, ‘Hey, I find it hard to feel sad, to worry about certain things.’ But there is help for families and help for patients.

Note: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255. Additionally, 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Although some regions cannot currently connect to Lifeline by dialing 988, the number will be available to everyone across the United States starting July 16..

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