In recent years, there has been a growing concern regarding the mental health of young people. Rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders have been increasing, and many young individuals are struggling to cope with the pressures of modern life. To address this issue, Governor Newsom released a proclamation declaring May 1-7 as "Children's Mental Health Awareness Week" this year, acknowledging the importance of raising awareness about children's mental health. It is noteworthy that mental health issues are the primary cause of hospitalization for children under 18 in California. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 3 in 5 U.S. teenage girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, representing a nearly 60% increase over the last decade.
Several factors contribute to this mental health crisis, including:
- Social media: Social media platforms can intensify feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression while fostering unrealistic expectations about life.
- Academic pressure: Many young people experience immense pressure to excel academically, leading to stress and anxiety.
- Economic insecurity: The current generation faces an uncertain job market and rising living costs, which contribute to feelings of stress, anxiety, and hopelessness.
- Stigma surrounding mental health: Many young individuals may feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help for their mental health problems, making it challenging to obtain the necessary support.
Additionally, there are numerous other factors that affect the mental health of younger generations today, including poverty, systemic racism, physical and online bullying, and parent-child conflicts, which are complex issues.
It is crucial for individuals, families, and communities to collaborate in addressing these issues and providing support to those who are struggling. Creating a safe community for children aged 5-18 can have a significant positive impact on their mental health and well-being. To initiate this process, the following agenda can be pursued:
- Identify the community's needs: Understanding the unique needs and challenges faced by the community is essential. Surveys can be conducted through social media platforms or reliable online sources to gather information from young individuals.
- Build partnerships: Establishing partnerships with mental health professionals, schools, faith-based organizations, and local businesses can help build support networks and resources for the community.
- Provide mental health resources: Mental health care specialists are integral to any community support system. Partnering with them can enable the provision of free or low-cost counseling, support groups, and workshops for young people and their families. Additionally, developing an online mobile app for 24/7 access to the community, along with an online mental health care assistant and reliable information resources, can be considered in the future.
- Engage youth in community projects: Involving young individuals in community projects, such as community gardens or art initiatives, can provide opportunities for them to learn new skills and engage in events or activities like sports teams and community service projects. These activities facilitate connection-building and the development of positive relationships.
- Create a safe and inclusive environment: Establishing guidelines, rules, and community values that prioritize treating each other with kindness and respect is paramount in creating a safe and inclusive space where all children feel welcome and valued.
By implementing these steps, we can take a proactive approach to support the mental health and well-being of young people in our community.