The mental health of young people has been of growing concern for years. The COVID-19 pandemic set off a surge in need across the country and put a spotlight on a broken system lacking the necessary resources to address that need combined with a workforce shortage.
A recent CDC report was devastating: It revealed more than 1 in 4 girls reported they seriously considered attempting suicide. For LGBTQ+ students, nearly 1 in 4 attempted suicide.
For years Boston 25 News anchor and investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh been examining the crisis surrounding youth mental health.
More than three years since the start of the pandemic, Kavanaugh wanted to take a fresh look at the issue. The state has earmarked money in commitment to addressing the issue. Is that focus paying off?
For several weeks, Kavanaugh has been speaking with educators, doctors, lawmakers, advocates and, most importantly, parents and kids. They told us all the same thing: kids continue to suffer and struggle to find enough resources to meet their mental health needs.
The issue of children “boarding” in emergency rooms or in other parts of a hospital, waiting for a placement in an appropriate mental health facility, or even out-patient services, persists. The Massachusetts Health and Hospitals Association tracks the numbers weekly. It reports the week of March 20th, 131 pediatric patients were boarding across the Commonwealth.
That problem is especially complicated for children in the care of state agencies, including the Department of Children and Families. 25 Investigates found many are losing their placements once they turn to hospitals in crisis. That means even when they’re ready to be discharged, there’s no ‘home’ for them to return to.
Kavanaugh assembled a panel of high schoolers from Chelsea, Wakefield, and Gloucester and gave them a chance to open up about their own experiences with mental health, to find out what is working for them and what they still need help with. The students were bravely candid about their struggles, their resilience, what’s working and what else they need.
Kavanaugh also visited a non-profit that is helping students learn the language and tools they need to talk about mental health struggles and suicide. The NAN Project guides students through a safe way to have difficult conversations.
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