Counselor shares state of mental health in youth
WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Rates of anxiety and depression have been increasing in children all across the country and here in Wisconsin. Those rates have been on the rise before the pandemic. But, data from Wisconsin’s Office of Children’s Mental Health shows one-third of high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless.
Data shows almost 60% of students in high school say they have experienced depression, anxiety, self-harm or suicidal thoughts in 2019. Fifteen percent of 12-17 year olds reported having an episode of major depression in the last year.
Meanwhile, data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows providers in Marathon, Lincoln and Langlade counties saw 1,052 children aged 0-17 in 2020. That was the highest number recorded in the state.
“I know, they’ve talked about, you know, kind of feeling like, they don’t have a lot of options to do things. Lots of people have just been sitting indoors a lot. They’ve been restricting themselves, they haven’t been able to get out and do the normal things they normally do,” licensed professional counselor in training at Behavior Health Clinic in Wausau, Christopher Hoffman said.
Another study done by Wisconsin’s Office of Children’s Mental Health reported that children ages 0-5 are getting their mental health issues diagnosed as behavioral issues. Youth aged 6-12 are lacking critical skills of building and maintaining relationships. Meanwhile, 13-18 year olds are dealing with sadness and the feeling of not belonging.
Hoffman said parents should be looking out for changes in behavior among their children, like isolating themselves, changes in eating habits or sleeping more often. Providers said behaviors that raise eyebrows to parents or are unusual are also indicators the children may be going through something.
But, Hoffman said the best way to find out is simply by having a conversation.
“I know as children grow older, they start to, I guess you could say grow out of parents’ lives. But the more you can connect with your child in whatever way you can, the better you’re going to be.”
He said strengthening the relationship between parents and children are also good ways to help children get connected to resources they may need.
“I feel like we need to continue, the more we talk, the more we’re able to get kids to continue to open up about how they’re feeling, what they’re feeling, what kinds of things they’re running into, and possibly get them to open up to more and more people so that when they’re in need, when they’re in crisis, they’ll come and talk to people.”
If you or someone you know is struggling, there are resources available. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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