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Mental Health Crisis Among Children/Adolescents Needs Action by All

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

NewBridge offers advice for combatting the child/adolescent mental health crisis. This is a list of five action steps when someone is in crisis.Mental health among children and adolescents has taken a battering. Between the isolation and loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and mass shootings in schools and elsewhere, depression and anxiety are affecting more young people. Suicide rates of people ages 10 to 24 had been climbing even before the pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. While Mental Health Awareness Month and National Adolescent Health Month come to a close today, efforts to help children, teenagers and young adults must be pursued so they can mature into healthy adults. 

“Without support and treatment, the outlook is bleak for children and adolescents struggling with mental illness,” NewBridge CEO Michelle Borden said. “Evidence shows that the sooner mental illness is identified and treated, the better. Children are resilient by nature, and effective treatment can set them on a healthy path.”

Slightly more than 15% of children ages 12 to 17 suffered at least one major depressive episode in the past year and 10.6% suffered from severe major depression, according to Mental Health America’s 2022 report, “The State of Mental Health In America.” Yet 60% of youth with major depression went without mental health treatment. 

“Childhood depression is more likely to persist into adulthood if gone untreated,” Borden said.

Warning Signs

There are often warning signs when a youth is struggling with mental illness. Among them are:

  • School performance drops significantly
  • Refusal to attend school and/or other routine activities
  • Frequent physical complaints
  • Changes in sleep habits/difficulty sleeping
  • Extreme difficulties in concentrating
  • Poor appetite
  • Mood swings/prolonged negative attitude
  • Chronic worrying
  • Expressing suicidal thoughts
  • Ongoing drug and/or alcohol use

Getting Help for Children and Adolescents 

Reducing the stigma of mental illness can make it easier for parents to seek treatment for their children, or teens to seek it themselves. We all can help by:

  • Educating ourselves about mental illnesses
  • Seeing the person, not the illness
  • Pushing for legislation and policies that improve access to treatment

NewBridge Services conducts training in Youth Mental Health First Aid in schools and the wider community. The 8-hour training teaches adults how to recognize and respond to a child or teen having a mental health crisis. “We’ve done YMHFA for Randolph, Jefferson, and Mendham already this year, and I expect we’ll run the program in another four or five communities in 2022,” said Elizabeth Jacobson, director of Community Response and Education at NewBridge.

NewBridge Offerings

NewBridge runs a virtual weekly support group for teens ages 13 to 17, addressing adolescent life issues such as emotion management, coping skills, social issues. Call 973-316-9333 to learn more.

NewBridge’s alternative education and career program, NewBridge Jobs Plus, provides life skills training, supportive counseling and support groups as part of its curriculum. Call (973) 939-2479 or send a message to jobsplus@newbridge.org.

NewBridge’s free Summer Youth Employment Program teaches Morris County teens about life skills, including conflict resolution, as well as how to prepare themselves for the workforce. It includes a community service component.

NewBridge will resume providing in-school resiliency programs in the fall, Jacobson noted.

Suicide Prevention

On July 16, 988 becomes the nation’s three-digit suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. Anyone who dials or texts 988 will be routed to trained counselors at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. The longtime hotline,1-800-273-8255, also remains in effect.

If you suspect a friend or family member is having suicidal thoughts, talk to them. The National Institute of Mental Health provides these five action steps when confronted with a person you suspect is suicidal:

  • Ask. While it may feel awkward, ask, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’
  • Keep them safe. Keep them away from lethal items and places.
  • Be there. Ask questions and listen to what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Help them connect. Make sure they get in touch with a mental health professional or someone very close to them.
  • Stay Connected. Follow up with the individual afterward because that can reduce the risk of a subsequent crisis. 

If you or somebody you know needs professional help, contact NewBridge Services at (973) 316-9333 or services@newbridge.org.

© 2022 Newbridge Services. E-mail And Voicemail Cannot Replace Counseling.