SALT LAKE CITY — After more than a year of pandemic disruption, a mental health crisis is gathering, but the good news is the stigma surrounding mental health is easing, say two professionals who are on a mission to connect children and teens with mental health support.
More than 20 million US children and teens have chronic or debilitating mental health needs.
Inside Sources host, Boyd Matheson is joined by Tony Mosier and Craig Sorensen, co-founders of Choose Mental Health, which raises funds and awareness for children’s mental health needs.
Mental health crisis surging
Isolation, fear, uncertainty, the death of loved ones, among other reasons, all contributed to a spike in mental instability within the last year.
“What we know about any natural disaster is there’s typically a one to two year pause before you really get the tsunami of mental-health issues that come,” Mosier said.
“A poll was taken in 2019 and about 11% of American adults were anxious or depressed. That same poll was taken in 2020 and 42% are reporting anxiety and depression, so nearly half the population is dealing with a mental health crisis right now.”
Mental Health America found the problem is particularly damming for America’s youth.
As of 2021, 9.7% of youth in the U.S. grapple with severe major depression, compared to 9.2% in last year’s dataset. The rate was the highest for youth who identify as more than one race, sitting at 12.4%.
Mental health support
A way to combat America’s mental health crisis is by making people aware of the resources available to them.
“A lot of people aren’t seeking that [mental health] care either because they don’t know what’s available or . . . it may be a reality that it’s not affordable. How do we address that issue?” asked Boyd.
“Mental health [care] is something that isn’t as mainstream and isn’t as accessible,” Sorensen said. “There are a number of really successful programs that have 80% success rates with children and teens, but they’re just either unknown or they’re unaffordable for most families.”
In 2016, a report found 11.8 million people, roughly 38% of Americans, needed support to address their mental health but lacked the means in order to so. From 2017-2018, 23.6% of adults with a mental illness reported an unmet need for treatment. That percentage has not declined since 2011.
“So the purpose of Choose Mental Health is to create an organization that raises funds and awareness for this issue, and then provide those funds for families and children that may not be able to afford that proven and specialized care,” Sorensen explained.
Stigma of mental health easing
Despite the skyrocketing number of people struggling with their mental health, data shows people are more open to discussing their internal battles.
A 2019 HealthPartners study found 71% of adults surveyed felt comfortable discussing their mental health issues with someone.
“One of the hidden gifts of the pandemic is people are talking a lot about it. Right now it seems to be the cause that everybody’s thinking about, everybody’s worried about,” Mosier said.
Even though more people were open to having crucial conversations about their mental health, 46% said they were reluctant to find help. So, the search to develop an approach that allows people to get what they actually need is still on the frits.
“So the more we talk about it, the more speakable it becomes, then we start to have innovation. We start to have different services. We’re seeing different kinds of services like online therapy, and different ways to try to get these needs met. So that’s a positive,” added Mosier.
Asking the tough questions to save a life
The pandemic brought on a wave of suicidal ideations.
“When you look at suicide prevention. And we know that suicide is an epidemic that the nation is struggling with,” stated Mosier.
Since the start of shutdowns, over 170,000 reported having suicidal thoughts. Of those thousands, 37% reported having thoughts of suicide more than half or nearly every day in September 2020.
“When you look at all the protective factors, the things that stop people from committing suicide. The number one protective factor is simply asking someone if they’re feeling suicidal,” Mosier said.
“You’re having a conversation with a friend or a family member, they’re expressing their despair. You simply say ‘Hey are you having any thoughts about harming yourself?” advised Mosier. “It’s kind of a taboo question but it’s so important to ask. Nine times out of 10 when you ask that question, they’ll tell you the truth. That’s the first step in getting help in a potentially lifesaving situation.”
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts needs to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.
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