The Pilot News

The top concern of parents? Their child's mental health


What's your most seri- ous concern as a parent? It probably depends on the age of your child.

As a parent of a teen, I was not surprised by a new Pew Research Center survey of 3,757 U.S. parents who named mental health as their top worry.

Forty percent of parents of children under 18 say they are either "extremely" or "very" worried their child is struggling with anxiety or depression.

And data backs them up: "Depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescent­s, and suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 15-19 years," according to the World Health Organizati­on.

The stressors children must meet head-on are overwhelmi­ng and as parents we see first-hand what they're up against. From increased pressures in the classroom to social media, extracurri­cular activities, and strict requiremen­ts for admission into just about any program of continuing or higher education, it's not a surprise students suffer from anxiety.

Even though school programmin­g now includes instructio­n on social and emotional skills like how to practice kindness and what to do when someone is sitting alone on the playground, exposure to a wide-open internet and social media makes the scary parts of the world a lot more visible and a lot more frightenin­g.

Increased awareness and even legislatio­n on inclusion along with efforts such as anti-bullying clubs and counseling elementary students on acceptance were nonexisten­t 30 years ago. But those gains can be easily looked past as the cruelties of our world play out on our phones 24/7.

Monitoring a child's electronic devices is cumbersome. Keeping track of their online activity and which barriers are too restrictiv­e and which are not is a full-time job. You begin to wonder, does it matter? Won't they see this eventually, somewhere?

Especially as they grow into adolescent­s, exposure is good for them so they learn how to navigate difficult issues and form their own opinions. At this point about all a parent can do is keep the lines of communicat­ion open, guide them as they encounter troubling content online and as they face stressful situations in real life. It's normal for teens not to want to open up to a parent, making it even more scary. I currently struggle with this myself (What's going on in his mind? With his friends? At school, when I'm not around?). Sometimes … much of the time … I don't have answers to those questions.

Yet, I have my intuition, know my kid well, and will always make myself available. I try to remind myself how difficult life can be, and look for help when I feel he or I need it.

Dr. Amber Cadick, Behavioral Health coordinato­r of Union Hospital's Family Medicine Residency, told reporter David Kronke last week that Vigo County has a dire need for therapists with mental health expertise, as at least a third of local patients experience mental health issues, a statistic she imagines being closer to two-thirds.

Parents or closely-trusted mentors must be the answer when experts can't be found or when it takes six months to a year to find a therapist.

Fortunatel­y, these growing needs are being addressed more often across the country, state and here at home.

In likely one of the most collaborat­ive efforts thus far of its kind, the Vigo County School Corp., city, county and law enforcemen­t have devised a plan to make it easier for students and families to report bullying, threats, safety issues or mental health concerns anonymousl­y, reported Sue Loughlin in Friday's Tribune-star.

The initiative, called Be S.A.F.E., will put several reporting resources in one place; it's currently available on the VCSC website at https://web. vigoschool­ and will eventually be housed on city, county, Terre Haute police and sheriff's sites as well.

In addition, Union Hospital announced last week it was awarded a $2.25 million grant that will improve training of medical doctors in dealing with mental and

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