September 27, 2022 By Ally Donnelly
Our kids are struggling. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 5 kids aged 6 to 17 experience a mental disorder in a given year and new data shows 44% of high school students reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless in the past year. Girls and members of the LGBTQ+ community report the highest levels of crisis.
In the latest Hingham ‘Cast, we sit down with Dr. Khadijah Booth Watkins, a psychiatrist with the Clay Center for Young Health Minds at Mass General Hospital. She specializes in anxiety disorders, ADHD and overall student health and suicide prevention and says alarm bells over our kids state of minds have been ringing before, through and “after” the pandemic. “They are really struggling,” she said. “We’re seeing an increase in depression, anxiety, suicidal thinking and loneliness.” She says back-to-school can be a wonderful time for some kids, but a minefield for others. “There are kids who are more vulnerable to start–whether it’s social anxiety, learning issues, performance pressure–just finding their place and making sure they feel secure and welcome.”
Dr. Booth Watkins say now is the time to check in with your kids in non-threatening ways. Start conversations, ask questions and be open and gentle with their struggles. She also says schools need to formally bring mental health into the curriculum throughout the school day. “School is a place where it can really be normalized because this is a place where they go every day and if we’re talking about it on a regular basis, it becomes more normal, less scary, less taboo.”
In this episode, she shares what to look for to determine the difference between “regular” fears or anxiety in your child and a more serious mental health issue. She shares tips on how to start conversations about mental health and how to model a healthy mindset and sharing. We talk about the role sleep and physical activity play in a student’s mental health and what they could do if a friend is in crisis.
It’s a great conversation. Join us!