Factors leading to youth mental health crisis in America

“We are in a state of emergency and we need to address it urgently because…

“We are in a state of emergency and we need to address it urgently because this is a matter of life and death,” says Dr. Khadijah Booth Watkins with Massachusetts General Hospital.A call to action from a Massachusetts mental health expert. Dr. Khadijah Booth Watkins says the impacts of the last two years are still being felt intensely. Booth Watkins says, “Kids are dying, kids are impaired, they’re not reaching their milestones due to the mental illness not being adequately identified and treated.”Booth Watkins is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Mass General Hospital as well as the associate director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds. “We’re essentially an educational vehicle and we disseminate education to the public about mental health,” Booth Watkins said. She says psychiatrists, pediatricians, and even the surgeon general have sounded the alarm to address the rising mental health crisis among kids.She says, “It’s extremely unfortunate and very sad. Suicide has risen to the second leading cause of death in young people between the age of 10-24.”Another alarming statistic: Research shows Black children ages 5 to 12 are almost twice as likely to die by suicide compared to their white peers. That’s a shift in the last decade. Booth Watkins says, “So this data isn’t even really incorporating from after the pandemic which is scary. Research related to specifically looking at suicidality in the Black community is understudied and underfunded. A lot of research that’s done does not incorporate or consider the issues that are unique to Black kids and they don’t consider the protective factors that are unique to Black kids.””They carry the same risk factors if they’re depressed, anxious, lonely and feeling isolated but when we think about the addition of racism, the discrimination, the violence, the depictions that they see on tv where they are misrepresented, stereotyped or they’re watching violence against their peers that’s stressful … and when we think about how stressful that is and what stress does to our bodies we can’t ignore the role that it plays and probably significant of a role that it plays.”Booth Watkins says there are some signs parents should look for: Changes in their kids’ habits for example if they’re suddenly very moody or talking a lot about worries and fears. Changes in sleeping and eating habits. If they no longer want to be around friends or family. A major change in their social group. One critical step she says is just TALKING:Booth Watkins says, “Conversations are incredibly important as it relates to stigma because if we hide and shroud mental illness in embarrassment and shame you feel isolated and you feel alone and you feel what’s wrong with me. So if you have these conversations more openly you can create dialogue and let people know they’re not alone we can share solutions that have worked for us together.”Booth Watkins says it’s important for parents to start these conversations even when they don’t see any problems — so kids feel comfortable opening up. As for when to seek professional help, she says aggression, threats, talking about not wanting to live or erratic or risky behavior are all really big warning signs.

“We are in a state of emergency and we need to address it urgently because this is a matter of life and death,” says Dr. Khadijah Booth Watkins with Massachusetts General Hospital.

A call to action from a Massachusetts mental health expert.

Dr. Khadijah Booth Watkins says the impacts of the last two years are still being felt intensely.

Booth Watkins says, “Kids are dying, kids are impaired, they’re not reaching their milestones due to the mental illness not being adequately identified and treated.”

Booth Watkins is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Mass General Hospital as well as the associate director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds.

“We’re essentially an educational vehicle and we disseminate education to the public about mental health,” Booth Watkins said.

She says psychiatrists, pediatricians, and even the surgeon general have sounded the alarm to address the rising mental health crisis among kids.

She says, “It’s extremely unfortunate and very sad. Suicide has risen to the second leading cause of death in young people between the age of 10-24.”

Another alarming statistic:

Research shows Black children ages 5 to 12 are almost twice as likely to die by suicide compared to their white peers. That’s a shift in the last decade.

Booth Watkins says, “So this data isn’t even really incorporating from after the pandemic which is scary. Research related to specifically looking at suicidality in the Black community is understudied and underfunded. A lot of research that’s done does not incorporate or consider the issues that are unique to Black kids and they don’t consider the protective factors that are unique to Black kids.”

“They carry the same risk factors if they’re depressed, anxious, lonely and feeling isolated but when we think about the addition of racism, the discrimination, the violence, the depictions that they see on tv where they are misrepresented, stereotyped or they’re watching violence against their peers that’s stressful … and when we think about how stressful that is and what stress does to our bodies we can’t ignore the role that it plays and probably significant of a role that it plays.”

Booth Watkins says there are some signs parents should look for:

  • Changes in their kids’ habits for example if they’re suddenly very moody or talking a lot about worries and fears.
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits.
  • If they no longer want to be around friends or family.
  • A major change in their social group.
  • One critical step she says is just TALKING:

Booth Watkins says, “Conversations are incredibly important as it relates to stigma because if we hide and shroud mental illness in embarrassment and shame you feel isolated and you feel alone and you feel what’s wrong with me. So if you have these conversations more openly you can create dialogue and let people know they’re not alone we can share solutions that have worked for us together.”

Booth Watkins says it’s important for parents to start these conversations even when they don’t see any problems — so kids feel comfortable opening up.

As for when to seek professional help, she says aggression, threats, talking about not wanting to live or erratic or risky behavior are all really big warning signs.

https://www.wcvb.com/article/warning-signs-youth-mental-health-crisis-massachusetts-general-hospital/39908874