“It tells us that there are definitely a significant number of young people in Clark County living with undiagnosed issues for their mental well-being,” Smith said.
According to the survey, more than 26% of Clark County middle school students and 36% of high school students reported having poor mental health “most or all of the time” during the pandemic.
“It feels a little bit better”
Scout Berner, 17, a student at Tecumseh High School, said the pandemic has brought about many changes for her and her classmates. Students had to switch from virtual learning to in-person learning and were unsure what the next week would bring.
Virtual learning has caused a sense of isolation for many students, Berner said. But returning to in-person education hasn’t automatically brought back the sense of normalcy, either.
“Everyone was so excited to see each other…but everyone also felt a little distant,” she said. “You would be sitting next to someone, or they would be on the other side of the class, you wouldn’t speak to them verbally. You would text them from across the room. It was a lot! But it’s a little better. »
Around 40% of high school students also reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two consecutive weeks in 2021, up 2% from high school students’ response to the same question in the 2019 survey. of the health district.
Tecumseh student Colleen Kottmyer, also 17, said many of her classmates might feel overwhelmed with balancing responsibilities at a time when life lacked balance. His homes and those of his classmates were also their classrooms; their kitchen tables, their desks.
“You were always home, so you never had a break from school or home,” she said.
The feeling hasn’t gone away
Smith said the COVID-19 closures have amplified the need for a sense of community and how feelings of isolation can negatively impact a person’s mental health. However, parents should consider that the feelings of anxiety and depression experienced by school-aged children during the pandemic have not necessarily gone away.
“This anxiety and depression can become a catalyst for other unhealthy behaviors such as poor diet and lack of exercise,” he said.
Overall, a person’s mental well-being is influenced by many factors, chief among which is feelings of safety, according to Smith.
“Food and housing insecurity are major contributors to feelings of anxiety, depression and hopelessness and can exacerbate existing mental health issues,” Smith said.
Kelly Rigger, CEO of Mental Health Services for Clark and Madison Counties, said teen mental health can also be heavily influenced by their home environment. Family stress reverberates, and parents’ struggles can often be felt by their children.
Berner also said she thinks social media use often influences how teens view themselves and how they feel connected to each other.
“I know I compare myself to role models I see on Instagram, or celebrities, wishing I could be them instead of being happy with myself,” she said. “And I think that’s something that a lot of teenagers struggle with.”
“They are not alone”
Clark County Schools provide mental health resources to their students. Tecumseh High School principal Aaron Oakes said his school district employs full-time mental health therapists and hosts wellness events for students.
Students also offer peer support through an organization called Hope Squad, Oakes said.
The Hope Squad is a nationally recognized peer support group and suicide prevention organization, and the Tecumseh High School chapter has dozens of students, including Kottmyer and Berner. Students who are team members are nominated by their classmates and team members are trained in peer support.
Kottmyer and Berner said they enjoyed learning how to respond to people who might need help or who might be grieving the loss of something in their life. Both students said teens feel much more comfortable approaching their peers for advice and reassurance.
“We go to them first, I think they feel more seen,” Berner said. “We can be with them through this. They are not alone.
Kottmyer said many young people are reluctant to seek help from the adults in their lives for many reasons: fear of being punished, fear of disappointing loved ones, and even fear of judgment.
Mental health awareness is also important to them overall.
“We all deal with our mental health in one way or another,” Berner said. “And we can all deal with it in different ways.”
Mental health resources for young people are also growing outside of their schools.
Clark and Madison County Mental Health Services completed construction of their main building on North Yellow Springs Street this summer to consolidate their youth services into one facility.
The nonprofit has doubled its treatment capacity for young people since opening its new addition, Rigger said. The organization provides outpatient treatment, therapy and educational support to local youth seeking mental health services.
Smith said the community can also become a mental health resource for young people by taking mental health first aid training and certification. The Mental Health Recovery Board and mental health services often make resources and training available for anyone to acquire enough knowledge to be able to provide support during a mental health crisis.
Help the teenager in your life
Free mental health guides on many topics are available at childrensdayton.org/onoursleeves. Anyone can also sign up for a free newsletter to get guides delivered to their inbox with ways to help.
If you or your child need immediate help with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line by texting “START at 741-741.
If there is an immediate safety concern, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
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