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Mental Health – Where Do We Go From Here

Written by: Alicia Marcos Birong, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Fact: 20% of our children are suffering from a mental Illness.

A depressed woman sitting alone is a dark tunnel with light at the other end.

Question: What are we doing for the other 80% who are struggling with issues that are not classified under the mental illness category?


Let’s define mental illness and mental health so we are clear on the difference.


Mental illness affects individuals of all ages, and it is estimated that one in five Americans will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 20% of youth aged 13 to 18 experience a severe mental illness in their lifetime, and half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Furthermore, suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 15 to 24 years. This statistic is concerning, and it highlights the importance of addressing mental health concerns in young adults. On the other hand, mental health refers to a person’s overall emotional and psychological well-being. Good mental health is characterized by the ability to handle stress, maintain positive relationships, and cope with life’s challenges. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), only 50% of Americans with mental health conditions receive treatment.


This highlights the importance of raising awareness about mental health and seeking help when needed.


Since the pandemic, it has become increasingly more obvious that the mental health crisis is only just beginning to unfold. Whether you are a man, woman, girl or boy, everyone has struggled and is still struggling from the pandemic chaos. We are just beginning to understand the effects of staying home for months, staying out of the classroom, out of the workplace, not getting to see family and friends, etc. As a family therapist, I am concerned for our children. They went from a normal life; to going to school, extra-curricular activities, play dates, summer activities, etc and then it was just gone. Now, we are back in the classroom and everything is “normal” again. But is it normal? Have our children actually re-adjusted from normal, pandemic and back to normal?

  • 71% of parents said the pandemic had taken a toll on their child’s mental health, and 69% said the pandemic was the worst thing to happen to their child

  • From March 2020 to October 2020, mental health–related emergency department visits increased 24% for children ages 5 to 11

  • Only 4,000 out of more than 100,000 U.S. clinical psychologists are child and adolescent clinicians

  • A national survey of 3,300 high schoolers conducted in spring of 2020 found close to a third of students felt unhappy and depressed much more than usual

  • ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children

  • 15.08% of youth (age 12-17) report suffering from at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year

  • Childhood depression is more likely to persist into adulthood if gone untreated

Is it any wonder we are hiring more and more professionals for our schools to assist our children with their mental health? Parents are seeing the decline in their children. They are worried and are trying everything they know to do to get to their children before it’s too late.


So where do we go from here? The stats are out and our children are NOT okay. How do we help them? How do we help them help themselves?

  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindfulness can help individuals reduce stress and improve their overall mental well-being.

  • Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that can boost mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

  • Talk to a Trusted Friend or Family Member: Sharing one’s feelings with a trusted friend or family member can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  • Practice Self-Care: Practicing self-care involves taking time for oneself and engaging in activities that promote relaxation and well-being, such as taking a bubble bath or reading a book.

  • Seek Professional Help: Mental health professionals can provide support and guidance for individuals struggling with mental health challenges. Therapy or counseling can help individuals learn coping strategies and improve their mental health.

  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help individuals reduce stress and improve their overall well-being.

  • Engage in a Hobby: Engaging in a hobby or activity that one enjoys can help individuals reduce stress and improve their mood.

  • Practice Gratitude: Focusing on the positive things in one's life. Practicing gratitude can help individuals shift their focus from negative thoughts and feelings to positive ones.

  • Set Realistic Goals: Setting achievable goals and celebrating accomplishments can help individuals build confidence and improve their mental health.

  • Take a Break: Sometimes taking a break from work, school, or other stressors can help individuals recharge and improve their mental well-being.

  • Connect with Nature: Spending time in nature can have a calming effect and improve one’s mood and overall mental health.

  • Limit Social Media Use: Social media can be a source of stress and anxiety for some individuals. Limiting social media use can help individuals reduce stress and improve their overall well-being.

  • Eat a Balanced Diet: A balanced diet can provide the nutrients needed for optimal physical and mental health.

  • Get Enough Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for mental health. Lack of sleep can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression.

  • Volunteer: Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, and it can also help individuals connect with others and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Bullying can also have a significant negative impact on the mental and emotional health of our children, specifically in the age group of 16 to 19 years old. It’s important to recognize the signs of bullying and take steps to combat it.


Here are five strategies for combating possible bullying.

  1. Speak up: If you experience bullying, it’s essential to speak up and report it to someone you trust. This could be a parent, teacher, counselor, or another trusted adult who can help you address the situation.

  2. Build a Support System: Developing a support system of friends and family members who can offer emotional support and encouragement can help you combat bullying and feel more confident in yourself.

  3. Develop Confidence: Developing confidence in yourself can be an effective way to combat bullying. Practicing self-care, engaging in activities that make you feel good about yourself, and setting achievable goals can help you build confidence and resilience.

  4. Set Boundaries: Setting clear boundaries with the people who are bullying you can help you protect your emotional well-being. This could involve limiting contact with them, ignoring hurtful comments, or confronting them directly.

  5. Seek Professional Help: If bullying is affecting your mental health and well-being, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. They can help you develop coping strategies and improve your overall mental health.

Overall, combating possible bullying during this age as a girl can be challenging, but it's essential to take steps to protect your emotional well-being. By speaking up, building a support system, developing confidence, setting boundaries, and seeking professional help when needed, you can combat bullying and feel more confident in yourself.


Overall, managing emotions, feelings, and thoughts during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for individuals in the age group of 16 to 19 years old. However, by practicing self-care, staying connected with others, limiting exposure to news and social media, engaging in mindfulness practices, and seeking professional help when needed, individuals can manage their emotions and thoughts more effectively during this time. I have been working with children for over 40 years.


I am a mother and grandmother, and I have seen many children turn the corner and come up the victor in their battle with mental health. But the bad is winning and you have an opportunity to make a difference in our children's lives. Please join me in making a difference in our children’s lives. They need us just as much as we need them. It takes a village to raise our families, so let's reconnect our villages and help each other raise our children and help them thrive!


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Alicia Marcos Birong, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Alicia Marcos Birong is a pioneer in the field of child mindfulness, speaking on the same stages with Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. Alicia’s signature programs have gathered national attention for their transformative abilities of children. An International Best Selling author, Alicia’s passion for empowering children is evident. With 25+ years of experience as a therapist, counselor, life coach, and hypnotherapist, Alicia shares her expertise with communities nationwide. You may have seen her on national television or working alongside companies like Coca-Cola, Air Force Academy, Girls Scouts of America, and the YWCA.

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