It’s no consolation, but you’re not alone if you find yourself grinding your teeth, having trouble sleeping, or feeling nervous, depressed, or overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, your children might be there with you.
Ranked 38th in the nation, Ohio is among states where adults have a higher prevalence of mental illnesses and lower rates of access to care, according to Mental Health America, a nonprofit organization that focuses on mental illness and mental health.
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As part of its just-released State of Mental Health in America report based on 2020 national data, the organization unsurprisingly found a country in emotional and mental distress.
- 21% of adults suffered from mental illness, equivalent to more than 50 million people
- 12 million adults have seriously considered suicide
- 55% of adults with mental problems received no help
Even more distressing, American children are in the midst of a mental health crisis of their own.
With 16 children’s mental health care facilities — including four in Columbus — Mental Health America ranks Ohio 27th in the nation for youth mental illness and access to care.
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It revealed that one in 10 children suffers from depression which seriously impairs their ability to “function at school or at work, at home, in family or in their social life”.
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Children are in crisis
These findings are consistent with what US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told Columbus Dispatch reporters last week during an editorial board visit focused on mental health.
He says he regularly thinks of triple digits.
“One is the number 57. This is the percentage increase in suicide that we have among young people in the decade before the pandemic. The pandemic has certainly made things worse for some children. Another figure is 44%. This is the percentage of high school students who say they are constantly sad and hopeless. It’s amazing because that’s almost half of high school students,” he said. “The third number is 11. It’s a number of years it takes on average from when a child experiences mental health symptoms to when they actually receive care.”
In this year’s State of the State Address, Governor Mike DeWine said mental health was one of his top priorities, saying Ohio could lead the world “in health research behavioral, community care and workforce development”.
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What are we doing for mental health in Ohio?
The governor has made some progress.
Among other things, the DeWine administration has invested $69 million to build mental crisis centers and mobile crisis teams, $84 million for hospitals and health centers to strengthen pediatric services.
There’s another $85 million earmarked for paid internships, scholarships, licenses, and other incentives for students joining the behavioral workforce.
Proponents wonder what the long-term impact of these efforts will be, especially when there is a shortage of behavioral health workers.
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Despite increased demand, there is only one psychiatrist for every 10,000 residents in Ohio, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that one in five American children suffers from a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder within one year.
He says there are 13 psychiatrists for every 100,000 children in Ohio.
This is an improvement from 2020, when there were only 11 psychiatrists per 100,000 children. Our state has approximately 2.6 million children under the age of 18.
Communities undoubtedly need more funding to expand access to care, but as Murthy pointed out, we won’t be able to tackle mental health crises with money alone. A cultural change is needed.
Murthy proposed the following change points:
Redefining success for kids
“I think we’ve pushed our children to pursue a pattern of success that creates stress and doesn’t contribute to happiness or fulfillment. It’s a pattern of success that tells them they’ll be successful if they acquire wealth , power or fame. Even if we don’t tell them this directly, we tell them this indirectly through the stories we tell, the people we profile as successful. You and I probably know a lot of rich, powerful and famous people. – all three – who are deeply unhappy. We don’t want our children to fall into this.
“You can’t dictate how someone talks about mental health in a certain way, but we all have a choice to talk about mental health in a way that doesn’t promote stigma. We have a choice to share our own stories and struggles in a way that people understand there is nothing to be ashamed of We have the opportunity to talk to our children about mental health Start these conversations so they know unless there’s no shame in asking for help.
“There are social ties that have really suffered over the years. We have become disconnected from each other. We participate less in community organizations. People have friends for meals less often. Fewer people have individuals who can rely on their networks. More people feel isolated and alone and this has real consequences on our mental health but also on our physical health.”
“People who struggle with loneliness are not only at increased risk for anxiety and depression, but also at increased risk for heart disease, premature death, dementia, sleep disturbances, and the list goes on.”
This article was written by Amelia Robinson, Editor-in-Chief of Dispatch Opinion, on behalf of The Dispatch Editorial Board. Editorials are our Board’s factual assessment of issues important to the communities we serve. These are not the opinions of our reporting staff, who strive to be neutral in their reporting.
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