Youth mental health issues on the rise, local therapists in high demand

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There’s a mental health crisis in America, and it’s affecting the youngest among us.

According to Mental Health America (hyperlink: https://www.mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america), youth mental health is getting worse, and the pandemic is playing a big role.

Daniel Kids’ school mental health therapist, Takiyah Joseph, said she’s been getting more calls from parents.

“There’s been a lot more parent contact in the past couple months about concerns for their children,” she said.

She works directly with children, specifically those in high school.

Lately, mental health therapists like Joseph have been in high demand.

“A lot of staying in the bedroom not interacting with family members, concerns of elevated anxiety and depression, and just lack of motivation that is manifesting with low grade performance,” said Joseph after hearing from parents about their kids.

According to Mental Health America, 9.7% of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression, up .5% from last year.

The rate was highest among youth who identify as multiracial, at 12.4%.

The organization also ranked states based on a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care.

Florida and Georgia ranked toward the bottom of the list, at 38 and 29, respectively.

The issue also got the attention of Florida’s first lady, Casey DeSantis.

“I had children tell me that if they admitted that they had a mental health issue, that would be an acknowledgment that they had something inherently and innately wrong with them,” said DeSantis.

Today she and Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new resiliency curriculum in schools and partnerships with sports teams to help with kids’ mental health.

Joseph said parents need to keep an eye out for these signs.

“If your child is usually bubbly, they come out they greet everyone, and suddenly they’re spending some excessive time in the room, that might be something to pay attention to. A change in appetite, whether it’s overeating or undereating, not doing things that they really enjoy doing,” she said.

Joseph said if you suspect your child may be harming themselves, get help right away.

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