Laura Dean Bennett
“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.”
~ John F. Kennedy
We must all be in the business of protecting and nurturing the next generation.
May was first designated as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949, but we have always recognized how important mental health is to a child’s development.
Even before the coronavirus turned their world upside down, closed schools and necessitated remote learning from home, disrupted daily routines and separated friends, young people were facing daunting mental health challenges.
According to National Vital Statistics Reports (Vol. 69, No. 11, September 11, 2020), between 2007 and 2018, the national suicide rate among persons aged 10 to 24 increased 57.4 percent.
Depression is the cause of suicide, and depression is treatable.
One in six U.S. youth, aged six to 17, experiences a mental health disorder each year. Half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75 percent by age 24.
Peggy Stull, of Youth Health Service, Inc., tells us that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in increased stress, isolation, anxiety, fear and loss of support systems for a large number of children throughout the United States.
“The result of this increase in stress manifests in symptoms which impact a child’s daily functioning in a variety of ways,” Stull said.
“Children under excessive stress may experience a decline in academic performance. The may exhibit excessive worry, withdrawal/ isolation, angry outbursts, disruptive behaviors, decreased sense of self-worth and lack of security.”
But there are local resources to which families may turn.
Children’s mental health providers in Pocahontas County include:
Youth Health Service, Inc. which provides school-based services in all schools throughout the county. They can be reached at 304-636-9450.
Seneca Mental Health – located in Marlinton – 304-799-6865.
There are many ways that concerned family members and friends can “change the script” for children who are suffering undue stress or mental health challenges.
Take time to listen to children.
Talk about their mental health and find out what their stressors are and how they are dealing with them.
We all have talents – find opportunities to share your talents with children.
Volunteer with children’s organizations.
Help them become involved in positive youth activities.
Be a positive role model for youth.
Give them appropriate responsibilities.
Provide verbal praise and recognition for positive choices or behaviors.
Help youth and their caretakers develop and maintain healthy lifestyles.
Seek professional help if you believe the child is in emotional distress.
Finally, Stull says that there are sometimes situations which constitute an emergency.
“Call 911 anytime you have reason to believe another’s life or safety is at risk,” she urged.
For West Virginia parents and/or teens:
844HELP4WV (844-435-7498) Call, chat or text for emotional support, treatment recommendations and referrals.
For those in West Virginia or anywhere in the United States, whether you are an adult or a child, you can call these numbers for help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Support and assistance 24/7 for anyone feeling depressed, overwhelmed or suicidal. 1-800-273-8255
Trevor Project Lifeline, 1-800-488-7386, provides 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
Boys Town National Hotline, 1-800-448-3000