Mental Health Crisis

Mental Health Crisis
Apr. 302024

I am not a mental health expert, and I am not prepared to tell anyone how to solve the present crisis of mental health problems in our children and adolescents. I can tell you that it is a crisis when both our local newspaper and national magazines have articles that bring the facts to our attention. My suggestions come from those who are experts.

First of all, we need to face the problem. The numbers of children dying from suicide or attempting suicide continues to climb. We are seeing children of every socioeconomic status unable to cope not just in Connecticut, but all over the country. And there is a need for more resources. Trained mental health professionals will not show up just because we want them to, and access to care for many children is frequently unavailable.

The April 8, 2024, People Magazine published some disturbing statistics. For example, girls’ suicide rate has increased 134% since 2010. Quoting the author of The Anxious Generation, Jonathan Haidt, the magazine points to excessive smartphone and social media use as the culprit, noting that “46% of teens are online almost constantly – double the 2015 figure”.

What is the solution? It is both obvious and challenging: no phones in school and no smartphones for middle school kids. If middle schoolers need to communicate, give them a flip phone. If you want to safeguard your children, you must meet with other parents and plan collectively. You also need to communicate with your pediatrician if you are concerned that your child may be anxious or depressed.

Communicating with your child about feelings should start very early. You need to understand the nature of bullying and cyber-bullying in middle school. Ask your child to explain it to you if you’re not familiar with what goes on. Believe me, you will learn a lot if you ask. Be aware of who your child’s friends are, who they hang out with, what they do after school. Ask about the use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes in their school without accusing them. Your child does not need you to be a friend, but you do need to keep the lines of communication open. If kids think their parents are only interested in punishing them for their missteps, they will never let on that they are in trouble. Parents can set guidelines without being hurtful.

Finally, keep numbers for emergency help lines handy. In an emergency dial 911. A 24-hour suicide helpline, 988, is available in English and Spanish. In Connecticut you can access Kids In Crisis. Their 24-hour helpline is 203-661-1911.

Meet the Author: Dr. Robert Golenbock
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