Before the spread of COVID-19, studies showed that an estimated 28.6% of teens abused substances. During the pandemic, that number rose to 30.4%. The pandemic has proven to be difficult on each of us, but it has proven especially difficult on adolescents, as their social, emotional and academic constants have been altered. In honor of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 7), we sat down with Wendy B., a licensed independent clinical social worker at our Weymouth office, to discuss substance use in teens and its effects on their mental health.
What do you think has led to the rise in teen substance abuse since the pandemic began?
There is an epidemic of anxiety and depression in adolescents, and much of it is because of social media. Kids think they’re being more social, but in reality, they’re actually just sitting on their beds completely alone while scrolling through the platforms. The pandemic has only made it worse. There’s this real isolation, and children aren’t communicating with other human beings. Bullying on social media has also become more prevalent. The anxiety and depression they’re feeling very well could contribute to the rise in substance use.
Substance abuse has become a …
Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month is recognized in April across the nation. During this month, it’s imperative that we, as a community, increase our knowledge, awareness and acceptance of the common disorder, while we continue to remove the stigma surrounding the topic. The Autism Society has deemed “Celebrate Differences” as the theme of this year’s recognition month. In doing so, the goal is to build a better awareness of the signs, symptoms and realities of autism. To celebrate differences alongside the Autism Society, we sat down with Laura N., director of South Bay’s Birth to Three Autism program, to further discuss the ins and outs of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
For those who don’t know what Autism Spectrum Disorder is, can you explain?
Autism Spectrum Disorder, commonly referred to as ASD, is a developmental disability that’s typically diagnosed at a young age – as young as 12 months old. This disorder is based on social communication, as well as restrictive and repetitive behaviors that often create behavioral challenges for the diagnosed individual.
What are the warning signs parents can look for in their children?
Some common characteristics include:
- Not pointing to objects
- Not making or avoiding eye contact
- Wanting to be alone
In honor of Self-Injury Awareness Month, we’re back with Part 2 of our discussion with South Bay’s assistant director of Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative services, Sara F. We had so much to talk about with Sara that we’ve made her Q&A a two-part series. Read on as Sara breaks down how to approach the topic of suicide with youth, and don’t forget to check out Part 1, where Sara discussed suicide and the pandemic’s impact on our nation’s youth.
When it comes to suicide prevention, what can we do as a community?
I think prevention in a pandemic looks like increased support and awareness. It’s important people know there’s a rise in suicide attempts, completions and hospitalizations since 2019. People need to know that something is wrong. Even though our youth may be present and engaged, they may also be experiencing suicidal ideations. We have a responsibility to ask them if they’re feeling isolated, hopeless, helpless or if they don’t want to continue on in this life.
I think prevention starts on the ground level by increasing awareness in our communities. Awareness is the first step to prevention. There’s already a stigma surrounding mental health, but suicide is seen as …
Throughout the month of March, our nation recognizes Self-Injury Awareness Month. Self-harm is an increasingly imperative topic that our society must acknowledge – especially since many routines are altered; activities are paused; and social time with friends and loved ones is limited. The sad truth is that, since the start of the pandemic, suicide completions amongst America’s youth have increased. The best way to reduce stigma and increase awareness is to simply talk about it. So, that’s what we did with South Bay’s assistant director of Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative services, Sara F. Read as Sara discusses suicide and the pandemic’s impact on our nation’s youth.
How has the pandemic impacted youth who are at risk?
I think youth are struggling to access the support they need on a consistent basis. There’s a lot of value in doing virtual lessons, but it lacks that personal piece. Youth don’t have the access to their friends or peer networks they once did. In turn, there’s an increase in social media usage. Having more access to social media and having to rely on it as their form of socialization has been unhealthy for a lot of youth, and it has demonstrated an increase …
Disclosing your mental illness to those you’re close with can feel like a looming conversation, but it doesn’t have to be. With preparation, telling your loved ones you live with a mental illness can be clear and simple when the time is right. We’ve included some advice for sharing this information with your friends, family or partner below.
When to tell
To put it simply – the best time to disclose your mental illness is when you feel it’s right, and you feel you’re ready. There’s no deadline, so don’t pressure yourself to do it by a specific date. Have the conversation when you’re feeling well, and you have time to properly explain what’s going on, especially if the person you’re telling isn’t well versed in the topic of mental illness.
What to tell
Plan your conversation ahead of time. This allows ample time to prepare an outline, determine key points and delineate next steps. Include specific examples and terminology that your loved ones need to know, such as what you are diagnosed with, how you feel or any triggers they should be aware of. Include ways they can support you and your mental well-being. This will give them clear, …