SAN ANTONIO – The April 14 episode of “Breakdown with #StephAndSteve” focuses on how the pandemic has affected teen mental health and what parents can do to help their children.
Joining hosts Stefania Jimenez and Steve Sprister were Jeff Gentry, MD, senior vice president of clinical services at Clarity; Talli Dolge, MS Ed., CEO of the Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative and senior vice president of school and community partnerships for the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; Demonte Alexander, a San Antonio-based public relations consultant; and Ainsley, a high school student struggling with mental health issues including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Below are key points from Wednesday’s live broadcast. The full episode stream is available to watch in the player above.
Over the past two years, the pandemic has had a negative impact on the mental health of most teenagers.
According to the CDC, from February to March 2021, suicide attempts were 50.6% higher among teenage girls and 3.7% higher among teenage boys. The CDC also reports that mental health-related emergency room visits for teens increased by 31% in 2020 compared to 2019.
“I’ve seen kids who, without the pandemic, would never have needed to be seen by a mental health professional,” Gentry said.
Dolge says the pandemic has been a difficult thing for children and teenagers to understand.
“We’ve just gone through the most unprecedented period of our lives,” Dolge said. “Kids were isolated and not given the tools to navigate the life we live.”
The isolation caused by the pandemic also led Ainsley to have suicidal thoughts as she recovered from mental health issues and an eating disorder.
“Eleven months after, you know, the world shut down was the last time I tried to take my own life,” Ainslie said. “With isolation, you lose a sense of belonging and need and desire for the world, which completely damages your self-esteem and self-esteem.”
It’s important for parents to take the time to listen to their children, but also to reassure them that it’s okay to talk about how they feel.
“I think it’s just as important to be as open as you can,” Gentry said. “It’s not what you say to the child, it’s what you help the child say that they may not have said before.”
Alexander, who is also a father and veteran, says that telling your child about the experiences you’ve been through is a way to help them connect and make them feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
“Just tell your story because stories change hearts and minds,” Alexander said. “The more you talk about it and express these things, the more they are compelled to help or change.”
There are many resources available both locally and nationally for parents to get help for their children if they believe they are struggling with mental health issues.
Below are some of the resources in San Antonio and the US:
- Center for Health Services – 24-hour crisis hotline at 1-800-316-9241 or 210-223-7233, chcsbc.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
Crisis text line: Text “SIGNS” to 741741
Disaster Hotline: 1-800-985-5990
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3 takeaways about teen mental health from ‘Breakdown with #StephAndSteve’ episode
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