Rising in the Wrong Direction: Rates of Mental Health Struggles for Teens
Executive Director, Tidewater Youth Services Foundation
Resident of Portsmouth
April 2, 2020
2020 was an incredibly hard year for a lot of teens and families in our region. 2021 is threatening to be just as hard for teens in the 757 Region. The Covid-19 pandemic has not pulled any punches the past 14 months. Especially in regards to the mental health and wellbeing of local teens.
At Tidewater Youth Services, we are concerned with the number of warning signs we are seeing related to the mental wellbeing of teens. Some of those warning signs include:
- Starting in April 2020, emergency room visits for mental health concerns are up 31% for 12-17 year olds (1).
- 56% of teens report knowing someone that has considered self-harm or suicide (2).
- Las Vegas has seen teen suicides double in less than a school year (3).
- The Child and Behavioral Health Department for the city of Virginia Beach reported new patient requests for service doubled in July, August and September, 2020, compared to 2019 (4).
“When asked what kept them up at night, teens overwhelmingly reported anxiety and depression as key factors…. more concerning was that 56% of students reported that they personally knew someone who considered self-harm or suicide…” (2).
Unfortunately, with our work with court-involved youth, we are seeing a noticeable increase in youth with mental health needs coming into contact with the juvenile justice system. The lack of mental health services, support through in person contact at school, and overall continued sense of uncertainty is contributing to the increase in court-involved youth in the region.
With the unexpected closing of Christian Psychotherapy in January, many teens and their families are at a loss for who to turn to for help. Here are some basic tips we have for parents and caring adults to help our youth through this season.
- Check In With Your Teen: Call, text, email, tweet, or bring cookies and sit outside with your teen. They may tell you to go away, but keep checking in. Ask how they are doing, how their friends are coping, what they are most anxious about, and how are they feeling right now. If your teen says you’re being annoying – ask anyways and keep checking in.
2. Parents/Guardians, Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help: If your teen is not opening up to you, but you are worried, now is the time to bring in your community. The coach they admire, the youth minister they look up to at church, or the family member they’ve had a special bond with since childhood – call them for reinforcement. It can take the whole community to support a teen and their family. Let your community be there for you.
3. Do Your Research: Do you recognize the difference between an introverted teen vs a depressed teen? What about how to increase the number of protective factors to help support your teen and combat the sting of mental health problems? Follow along here this month for Signs of the Disorder and Tips to Increase Protective Factors for Your Teen. We’ll be posting throughout the month of what signs to be looking for and how to best protect your teen.
4. Seek Out Professional Help: Even if you know all the signs and your teen is surrounded by caring adults, it may not be enough to fully support them. It’s okay to seek out professional help in the form of your teen’s doctor or counselor to seek advice. Keep calling until you get an answer, a referral, or an appointment. If there’s an immediate emergency situation, call 911.
We wish we had easy solutions for families with teens that are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. We do promise that you and your teen do not have to feel alone in the struggle. The 757 is full of nonprofits and treatment agencies that care deeply for the wellbeing of our youth. We’re here to support you and your teen.
“There will be kids needing care for psychic pain well into the future. The pandemic that began a year ago will not be leaving us anytime soon” (5).
Tidewater Youth Services is in the business of creating second chances for any youth by nurturing potential, creating opportunities, and instilling hope.