The mental health of children and youth has been increasingly affected since the onset of the pandemic, a situation that has worsened with dozens of shootings and attempted shootings in U.S. schools, which is why in October 2021 the American Academy of Pediatrics declared mental illness in this population group a national emergency.
In the wake of recent shootings and massacres, experts gathered at a conference organized by Ethnic Media Services to discuss the mental health challenges faced by children and youth, as well as alternatives and ways to help those suffering from these problems.
Beth Jarosz, U.S. program director and deputy director of Kids Data, spoke about the significance of rising suicide rates in the United States, particularly in the state of Florida.
He commented that the suicide figures for young people between the ages of 15 and 19 in 2020 increased by 60 percent compared to 2007, while the suicide rate for children between the ages of 10 and 14 is triple what it was in that same year.
He also pointed out that high-risk groups are those belonging to indigenous communities, those with childhood adversities, the LGBTQ+ community, the homeless or those who have been adopted, and those who have suffered bullying.
He also noted that 1 in 6 young people have diagnoses of attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, behavioral problems and depression. However, only half of these have received treatment or counseling.
Eddy Molin, nurse manager at Jackson Health System based in Miami, Florida, commented that in the last two months there has been an increase in hospital admissions of children with anxiety or disruptive behaviors, which he believes are related to the shootings that have occurred.
He also pointed out that "social networks have a very powerful capacity to determine how people think".
In view of this, he pointed out the importance of observing the behaviors of young people and identifying behaviors such as abandonment of usual activities, isolation and hallucinations, among others. Reasons to act immediately and seek help.
For her part, Estephania Plascencia, a student at Florida International University, shared her experience of the mental health problems she faced and pointed out the importance of parents being informed about these problems and how they can help their children in case they are in a similar situation.
Finally, she stressed the importance of people struggling with a mental health problem sharing their story to end the stigma surrounding them, as this allows others to recognize that they have them and seek help.
Joshua Ho, director of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners' Asian American program, shared the mental health issues his son faced, which he began to identify after observing different behavior in his son.
She also commented on the importance of seeking guidance and maintaining good communication with the children to know what they are going through.
Susan Racher, director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Miami-Dadesaid that one of the main objectives of this organization has been to make communities aware that mental health is a right, since there is a significant lack of information on the subject.
At the end of the meeting, it was commented that recovery can be achieved with a support system and understanding that it is not an easy road, that they are not alone.
You may be interested in: California announces more than $500 million to support people with mental illness and substance abuse