More than 400 million people suffer from some type of mental health disorder, according to the World Health Organization, and 100 million of those people are children.
“Sadness, loneliness, no one to talk to,” said New Town High School student, Tierra Kinden.
Kinden says those are all words she’s heard from her peers at New Town High School…and it doesn’t stop there.
“It’s hard seeing people that don’t have the same mindset as me. Struggling with how they look, how their body is, their weight and stuff like that,” added Kinden.
Mental illnesses come in many different forms and can affect anyone. For children between ages three and 17, more than 1 in 3 have anxiety and about 1 in 6 suffer from depression. And those struggles can be even tougher in rural areas.
“I’m the type of person where I don’t express my feelings. Because I feel like I can control them myself,” said Makaila Martin.
That’s a common sentiment among teenagers. Graduating senior Martin says talking to friends about mental health is not always an easy option, because of fears of being judged. And parents aren’t the easiest to talk to either, but she says as much as she tries to deal with it herself, or hide it, reality eventually comes out.
“Just the other week it got to the point where I couldn’t bottle it up anymore and I just had to like explain it to her. Whether she liked it or not I guess. But yeah I had a little breakdown,” added Martin.
Nearly two-thirds of teenagers never seek help from a health professional. Things like stigma and neglect prevent people with mental health disorders from getting the care they need. For others, it’s simply an issue of access.
“It’s exacerbated a situation that already existed because of the lack of resources and care,” said Chelsie Smith.
Guidance Counselor Chelsie Smith says she sees students every day struggling. The biggest issue she sees is learning being inhibited because mental health needs aren’t being addressed, but a new service is bringing the help right to students’ computers.
“We were fortunate to have a telehealth program. So I would schedule appointments. I would go get students right from the classroom to a private secure area where they could meet with a psychiatrist,” added Smith.
Smith says the pandemic has made providing care even more difficult. She says with so many things being uncertain, children more than ever need a listening ear — and parents are the first line of defense.
Smith added, “You want to validate their feelings. You want to listen to them primarily. Hear them. Don’t try to say “don’t feel that way”. Acknowledge their pain.”
And sometimes it helps to hear from people who they most relate to.
The New Town High School Leadership Council is a task force of 25 students who tackle everything from vaping to self-image and mental health issues. They have made videos and ad campaigns to connect with people their age to let them know that they are not alone.
“All of us in this room have been through something at one point or another. The idea behind this council is we got the idea that nothing can impact the youth than the youth itself,” said student Keishawn Johnson.
With that in mind whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or friend, take the time to listen when a child gets the courage to talk to you. You could possibly be the link that stops them from making a life-altering decision.