by Linda Sommerville, Development Director
As we have witnessed and endured a most unsettling and tumultuous year, many are experiencing a collective mental health crisis from both real and perceived threats and challenges. Some of these challenges are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and an uneven and slow response to the crisis. However, much of this has been building over time, reaching epidemic levels in our country, as studies have shown increased levels in anxiety and depression trending among adults and children. In the US, just under 1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness in the course of a year, with anxiety disorders the most common among them. Over 21% of children ages 13 to 18 suffer from a serious mental-health condition at some point, and even among ages 8 to 15, 13% will suffer from a serious mental-health condition.*
There are many causes for mental crisis. Fortunately, there are many good treatments.
In order to heal, we need to restore our humanity and common goals. Let’s start by listening to our friends, families, neighbors, community leaders. We need to make sure that everyone’s voices are being heard because everyone has a story to share. Our country values mercy and justice, but we need to make sure that everyone benefits from those values. We will find common ground once we stop yelling and start talking about ways to better understand the other person.
Like you, we have lots of virtual meetings at Child and Family Services and everyone has a chance to ask questions and be heard. We recently added a “Just Curious” item to our standing agenda at our All Staff meetings to encourage folks to do just that. Our social workers have all been trained in understanding trauma and the physiological effects of adverse childhood experiences on the human body in addition to the emotional struggles. Everyone is trained in recipient rights, cultural competency, person-centered planning, and other important topics. We offer implicit bias, suicide awareness and prevention, secondhand trauma and other training to the larger community as well. We recognize the need to create a culture of listening, understanding, and empathy.
As we build our empathy skills, we begin to recognize that children (and adults) react out of love or fear. Psychiatrist and author Bruce D. Perry said: “The more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely he will be to recover from trauma and thrive. Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love.” This simple concept has so much depth in understanding basic human behavior. If we all spent more time even just smiling at others, it releases endorphins that help both the giver and the recipient of that kind gesture.
In 2020, experts worried that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered an increase in cases as Americans grapple with social isolation, fear, and loss of income.
A recent Ipsos survey of more than 20,000 American adults found that nearly half report always or sometimes feeling lonely. One in four say they rarely or never feel as though they have close friends or family members who truly understand them. More research has found that adolescents may be at even greater risk for loneliness than adults. “Loneliness is an emerging public-health crisis,” says Stephanie Cacioppo, an assistant professor of psychiatry and the director of the Brain Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Chicago. But while many people recognize loneliness as a problem, few realize the severity of its effects on a person’s mental and physical health.
In a recently published white paper, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Pediatric Mental Health: A Study of Private Healthcare Claims,” FAIR Health reported significant increases in mental health claims. For those 13-18 years of age, intentional self-harm nearly doubled from April 2019 to April 2020, claims for overdoses increased 119.31%, claims for substance abuse disorders rose 62.69%, and generalized anxiety disorder increased 93.6%.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on mental health, particularly on that of young people. The findings in our new report have implications for all those responsible for the care of young people, including providers, parents, educators, policy makers, and payers."
Robin Gelburd, President, FAIR Health
Trends of Hope
Record numbers of young people are seeking treatment for depression and anxiety, often sharing their struggles which reduces stigma for those suffering from mental illness. More and more recognize the value of counseling and are asking for help.
More screening is being done at schools, doctor’s offices, and online services for counseling/referrals. Even screening questions have reduced depression and anxiety among patients who were being seen by medical school students, according to Dr. Mark Sloane, a consulting pediatrician from the Children’s Trauma Assessment Center at Western Michigan University. It is as if they just needed someone to listen to them!
Many insurance companies are covering virtual counseling services, and organizations like ours are increasing staff to meet the needs. Virtual counseling has helped remove transportation and other barriers to counseling. Call our Front Office at 231-946-8975 x1060 to schedule an appointment or find our more information.
Several drug-free treatments are scientifically proven to help reduce depression—including exercise, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavioral-activation therapy, mindfulness training, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), pet therapy, equine therapy, nature therapy, sunlight therapy, and new addiction treatment therapies. We’re all in this together to help each other and provide hope and resources for healing!
We offer many training programs to our community and we encourage you to join us for these educational and healing opportunities!
Email us today for more information about all of our community education opportunities.
*Source: Mental Health: A New Understanding, Special Addition, Time magazine 2020