On September 6, Congressman Greg Landsman, and Beech Acres Parenting Center, which provides mental health support services for about 27,000 Greater Cincinnati children, jointly hosted a regional youth mental health forum at TriHealth’s downtown corporate headquarters. Professionals representing organizations working in the employment, housing, education, anti-poverty, and other aligned sectors attended the event, which focused on the need for prevention to create more positive outcomes for children under increasing societal and familial pressures.
Landsman, who began his first Congressional term in January, noted that the challenges that young people face has escalated to a “community crisis.” With the support of numerous local mental-health leaders, Landsman sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra asking his department to provide greater emphasis on providing resources to improve to mental health care access and resources for minors. He noted the worsening shortage of mental health professionals, and the need for schools and community organizations to offer enhanced screenings, prevention, and support.
Mental health has been a cornerstone of Landsman’s Congressional service. As a former public-school teacher, Landsman has unique insights into the many forces that create students’ debilitating anxiety and feelings of hopelessness.
In February, he became a member of the House Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force, which, according to Landsman’s website, “works to address the addiction epidemic, as well as the interconnectedness of substance use disorder and mental health.”
Numerous statistics underscore the challenge’s severity. A 2021 U.S. Surgeon General advisory stated that
one in three high school students -- and half of female students -- reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness: a 40% increase from 2009. And, in a 2022 report, Mental Health America reported the following:
- More than 2.5 million children in the U.S. suffer from major depression.
- More than 60% of those youth with major depression receive no mental health treatment.
- More than 15% of minors had experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.
Carrie Bunger, Beech Acres’ vice president of effective school solutions and a longtime educator, noted the importance of having a foundation of mental-health treatment in place beginning early in childhood: “Certain disorders do not present until adolescence, so it’s important to begin mental-health support in the younger grades. Teaching emotional regulation and identifying feelings begins with preschoolers, and social media access and usage occurs earlier and earlier.”
She noted the stigma that accompanies mental-health issues and treatment has diminished somewhat since the onset of COVID-19, but that many parents don’t feel empowered to discuss these challenges with their children’s pediatrician. Bunger also acknowledged the chronic challenge of sufficiently funding these services, and lauded Colorado’s I Matter program, which offers its residents access to six free virtual counseling sessions, as a successful model.
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