May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month.  It was started by Mental Health America in 1949. This year, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s theme is “It’s Okay Not to be Okay.” SAMHSA has a tool kit and other resources to improve mental health.

In 1949, men were home from fighting in WWII, the country was optimistic to move forward with jobs, security, moves to the suburbs, and the forthcoming Eisenhower years.  What has happened since 1949 that leads the Centers for Disease Control to declare that one in five of our youth between ages thirteen and eighteen has mental illness? SUICIDE is the second leading cause of death for ten to twenty-four year-olds.

While society cannot remain stagnant, ours seems to be failing its youth.  They are lonely, and obsessed with digital media. One therapist I spoke to told me that parents are concerned that their children don’t want to go out. They stay home and socialize on their cell phones into the wee hours of the morning, even when they have licenses to drive! They are pressured to do well academically despite having their classes taught by Zoom teachers during Covid.

Everything – food, clothing, college – costs more.  They probably know that they will never be able to live better than their parents.  If they have mental health problems such as anxiety, ADHD, depression or more serious ones such as mood disorders, chances are that the pediatrician they see does not have more than five extra hours in medical school on those topics, including drug abuse.

Teens are vaping in school, told not to smoke pot yet most states are legalizing recreational marijuana.  (It’s stronger than the Age of Aquarius and with enough of it, can produce a psychosis.) Parents keep tempting liquor in the house and don’t throw away their expired medications in their medicine cabinet. Illicit drugs can be ordered from Canada and online without the buyer knowing that the supplier could be a drug dealer.

With most parents working, parents dread the “second shift” when they return home.  In a survey, parents said they would rather stay at work then come home to supervise homework, make dinner.  Where is the JOY in parenting?

Generation Z (11 to 26) has read or seen violence in their schools, friends overdose, and heard of politicians’ affairs.  They have witnessed wild animals (coyotes, bears) out of their habitats in their cities and suburbs and their favorite stores have shuttered. The beaches they frequent are filled with plastics and they are worried about climate change.

I don’t have many answers, but if you’d like to weigh in, please do.  I’m appalled that suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10 to 24 year-olds.  We can do better, but how? #teensuicide#teenmentalhealth

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.

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