World Teen Mental Wellness Day
Authored by CASA Blogger, Diane Wolfkiel/DMW CopyWriting
Gen Z has the Worst Mental Health of any Generation
Bloomberg News describes "Gen Z" as "the group of kids, teens and young adults roughly between the ages of 8 and 23" in 2020. Generation Z
This my friends is a subject near and dear to my heart. You see, I have a Gen Z child with a mental health illness.
And before today, I’m not sure I could have talked about it very much - but she’s doing well at the moment - and living moment by moment, day by day is pretty much their plight - until they are healed.
So, please join me in recognizing on March 2nd,
World Teen Mental Wellness Day!
What is it?
“It’s a day that aims to raise greater awareness of mental health issues among teens, as well as provide education about removing stigmas surrounding preventative mental health.” WORLD TEEN MENTAL WELLNESS DAY - March 2
Who Founded it?
Do you know the clothing store, Hollister? They founded it! And they’ve set up the Hollister Confidence Project . Through this project, they are helping to raise funds for an organization called, Bring Change to Mind It’s a nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
“Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype) Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs towards people who have a mental health condition are common.”2
I know all about stigma from personal experience. My daughter was just 4 years old when we first experienced it. She was enrolled in preschool, but we spent most of our time each day at the neighborhood playground. There were a lot of young kids in the neighborhood back then. At first, they were very welcoming - and as I am pretty social - she was very quickly invited to numerous playdates. At first, I would accompany her - hang with the moms while keeping an eye out for whatever she was up to. She was different than other kids - even back then - she was rough and had a super short attention span. It didn’t take long before the conflict began - she stepped on a toy - kicked some toy tower down - took something from another child. It seemed wherever she was - there was crying.
We stopped getting invites.
There were definitely playdates and birthday parties happening - we heard about them and saw the cars parked on the street outside the kid’s houses. But, we weren’t on the invite list.
Is it New?
Teen Mental Wellness is not a new concept; there are numerous organizations that have been advocating for teens for years - But declaring it a national day is new for 2020.
According to the U.S Surgeon General in any given year about 20% of children in the country have a diagnosable mental illness and more than 7.5 million American children and adolescents suffer from a serious mental illness that significantly interferes with their day-to-day life. The following organizations are just a few among many who advocate for mental wellness.
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
“Mental wellness is the ability to adapt to changes, deal with trauma, and bounce back from the significant stressors that life presents, and it is just as important as physical health. Mental wellness can help children manage unpleasant feelings and the uncertainties of life, as well as protect them from risky substance use as they grow." Teen Mental Wellness
American Mental Wellness Association American Mental Wellness
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Mental Health in Adolescents
The statistics for children in the welfare system are staggering in comparison.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, up to 80% of foster youth suffer from mental health issues as compared to 18%-22% of non-foster youth.¹
Foster children are 5 times as likely to have anxiety and 7 times as likely to have depression than children not in the child welfare system.³
What are the warning signs?
According to Ventura County Behavioral Health, these are some of the behaviors to look for in older children or teens:
-Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
-Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
-Excessive complaints of physical ailments
-Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
-Intense fear of weight gain
-Exercising too much
-Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
-Frequent outbursts of anger that seems to come from nowhere
What are the most common mental health problems?
According to the American Mental Wellness Association, they are as follows:
-Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
-Disruptive behavior disorders
-Pervasive developmental disorders
-Learning and communication disorders
-Affective (mood) disorders
Can the teens be helped? YES!
Effective treatments do exist but of course, the best route is prevention, & early intervention. Stigma is one of the barriers to receiving proper treatment.
What can we do, as adults?
Early intervention with coordinated specialty care continues to yield successful outcomes for teens with mental health illnesses. As adults we can do the following:
1. Notice the warning signs
2. Coordinate specialty care - bring together the team of specialists in order to customize a treatment plan - psychotherapy, medication management, case management, family education, work or school support - job coaching or educational accommodations, housing, peer support.
3. Prepare for crisis intervention services
4. Advocate on their behalf - eliminate the stigma
How do we possibly do all this?
I asked myself that very question when I first moved to Lancaster county in 2016. My daughter was 15 years old. We knew for certain that she suffered from mental illness. (50 % of teens are diagnosed at the age of 14.) but we were not sure how to go about coordinating all of her specialty care. Lancaster County made it easy! They have a specific department established to provide behavioral health and developmental services - Lancaster County BHDS, PA - It took time, patience and advocacy on my behalf, but together we mobilized a team of specialists to customize a treatment plan for my daughter. She’s not cured yet, but I know with continued help and advocacy, she has a fighting chance.
At CASA of Lancaster County, Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA of Lancaster County all we do is advocate for children in the foster care system. We are part of a national network of nearly 1,000 community-based programs across the country that recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to act as advocates and mentors for the best interest of abused and neglected children and teens.
As adults, we can make a difference in the Lancaster community.
Share this article on social media.
Participate in the Confidence Project.
Support any one of the organizations mentioned.
¹ American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Foster Care, Adoption, and Kinship Care, Committee on Early Childhood, and Committee on Adolescence. Technical report: health care issues for children and adolescents in foster care and kinship care. Pediatrics. 2015;136(4). Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/4/e1131#ref-1
³ Heather N. Taussig, Scott B. Harpin, Sabine A. Maguire Child Maltreat. Suicidality Among Preadolescent Maltreated Children in Foster Care. Published in final edited form as: Child Maltreat. 2014 Feb; 19(1): 17–26. Published online 2014 Feb 24. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4319651/