Opinion: Acting on youth mental health crisis is a medical and moral obligation – The Cincinnati Enquirer

Posted: June 13, 2022 at 8:28 am

Laura Mitchell| Opinion contributor

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, has sounded the alarm on the youth mental health crises our country faces, with unprecedented challenges made even more severe by the pandemic. His recent report was as clear as it was dire.

"The pandemic eras unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends, and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stresses young people already faced,"Murthy wrote. "Our obligation to act is not just medical its moral."

Our children are simply coping with the effects of the world in which they are growing up. A global health crisis, massive geo-political unrest, including the war in Ukraine, growing climate concerns, and ongoing racial and political division in the U.S. are fueling this decline in the overall mental wellness of our youth. Regardless of how intentionally we try and protect our children, they are inevitably being impacted by these massive forces influencing everyone, everywhere.

Its clear that massive, intentional action is necessary to create better outcomes for physical health and mental well-being. Our plans must go beyond addressing our current situation they must consider the future and build toward a brighter tomorrow.

To start, we need to reframe the question about mental wellness. Its time to ask different questions.

"Whats right with you?"instead of "What happened to you?"

"Whats strong with you?" instead of "Whats wrong with you?"

Once we are asking the right questions, we can address mental health challenges head-on, together, as a community.

But, what if we all came together to create better systems that could transform the future for us and our children? We must develop a comprehensive approach that brings together doctors, therapists, teachers, social workersand other diverse experts in appropriate fields of study. Involve parents, civic leaders, clergyand everyone in the community. An intentional community response is critical as everyone in the city benefits from the improved mental health of its citizens.

A comprehensive solution isnt just throwing money at the problem and hoping that overburdened schools, government programsand social service agencies pick up the slack, though proper funding is important. No, a comprehensive plan means looking at every aspect of the problems we face.

For example, a recent study on mental health in teens found that proper diet, nutrition and exercise can reduce depression in young people, and this is just the type of insight we should act upon. We need to look at health care and prescription costs, and destigmatize and decriminalize mental health. We have to increase the number of qualified providers of mental health services and remove barriers to accessing this care.

Beech Acres Parenting Center wants to be part of the change.As we head into summer, know our mental health teams inside local schools are prepared to continue to provide services to students.Our experienced Parent Connext team is on hand to meet individually with parents to support them with anything from separation anxiety to screentime battles.With All Families staff is equipped to support foster families, kinship families and any family facing challenges and hardships that need empathy and help connecting to resources.

Now is the time to be curious and discover solutions with the community. Listen and observe whats happening in our schools, on our playgrounds, in our parksand in our neighborhoods. Test possible solutions and learn from our failures. Create accountability by establishing ways to share access to data that is easy to find and understand. Make kindness and empathy the norm. Successes can be shared and scale from neighborhood to neighborhood and community to community.

Lets move away from coping with a decline in mental wellness and toward transforming our community to a healthy, positive environment where our children can thrive.

Laura Mitchell is president and CEO of Beech Acres Parenting Center in Anderson Township.

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Opinion: Acting on youth mental health crisis is a medical and moral obligation - The Cincinnati Enquirer

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