Children's Mental Health In Crisis

It didn’t take a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics declaring children’s mental health a national emergency, for many of us to understand that youth mental health has been a simmering crisis for a long time.

As the world has needed to grapple with the effects of the world wide web, social media, and a general loss of community as people feel more divided and misunderstood than ever, our youth have been the most impacted. Suicide moved from the third leading cause of death for those aged 13 to 18 to the second leading cause of death in the last decade.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary isolation that came with it resulted in youth losing some of their natural support systems through schools, peer relationships, extra-curricular activities, and summer camps. Many youth were impacted by the death of a loved one during the pandemic and were unable to grieve in natural ways or may not have even had the chance to say goodbye. COVID-19 appears to be the precipitating event that has made the simmering crisis of youth mental health boil over into a shadow pandemic. The CDC found that between March and October 2020, emergency department visits for mental health emergencies increased by 24% for children aged 5 to 11 and 31% for those aged 12 to 17. Suicide attempts for girls aged 12 to 17 increased nearly 51%!

In the same way that people of color were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, youth of color have been disproportionately impacted by the mental health effects of the pandemic. Additionally, communities of color have different barriers in accessing mental health treatment due to stigma, where services are located, or not having access to the necessary technology (devices and adequate internet) to get the help necessary.

Through a few sources, we received some much-needed funding. FSA is employing outreach strategies to communities that are often disengaged from mental health services (BIPOC communities, LGBTQ communities, and those with less financial resources). We utilize tools and incentives to get people involved in service while recognizing their whole needs as an individual/family. Research shows that once people get past the first three appointments, they will often remain involved in treatment until completion. This requires our staff to be creative in getting to those who may be hesitant about services initially.

We at Family Service Association of Greater Elgin Area are incredibly grateful for the support of this incredible community as we seek to carry out our mission in concert with our community partners.

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