Children see rise in mental health struggles

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 7:53 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Medical experts are noticing a trend from the past two years: a rise in adolescent cases of anxiety and depression.

“The pandemic just kind of exploded the mental health crisis,” said Dr. Marcie Billings.

Dr. Marcie Billings at Mayo Clinic says mental health crises are harder to identify, as kids usually are not able to pinpoint the exact problem.

“The kids are coming in and not necessarily coming with I have depression,” she said. “We’re seeing things like fatigue. We’re seeing things like academic challenges, anxiety, depressed mood obviously, sleep disturbance, eating concerns.”

Dr. Billings says parents should watch out if these behavior changes stick around.

“I think the biggest one for us is persistence,” she said. “When the persistence of a behavior goes on for a week or two weeks or longer where there’s not these changes that you would typically expect. That is a big a big clue, and a red flag in terms of this is this is more of an issue than typical teenage behavior.”

Experts say kids are at a higher risk of experiencing a mental health issue if their parents have also struggled with their mental well-being.

Lisa Steig, the Eau Claire Area School District school counseling administrator says on the flip side parents can be role models for properly handling emotional health struggles.

“If parents are struggling at times, it’s OK,” she said. “We all struggle at times, and to kind of model, how do we work through those struggles? Do we go for a walk? Do we seek professional help? Do we talk with a friend? What are some things that we can do to model, you know, overcoming the disappointment or the stress or the adversity, whatever it might be. Children do watch us, and they listen and they learn from us.”

Both Steig and Billings agree: the greatest solution to a mental crises is open communication between parent and child.

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