When I was in high school, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I didn’t know that at the time. Mental health wasn’t something that was talked about, at least not in my circle of family and friends in the 1990s. It wasn’t until years later that I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I had to deal with the common stressors of school, social cliques, dating, driving, extracurricular activities, and home life. But there was no social media. No year lost due to a pandemic. No political or economic upheavals. I also had the privilege of being white, male, heterosexual, and having stable middle-class parents.
And yet, I still suffered from depression and anxiety.
Kids today deal with so much more than I do. The threat of mass shootings. The political spectacle of anti-diversity efforts. Cyberbullying on social networks. The disruption of COVID. The impending calamity of climate change and a democracy teetering on the brink. Add all of these on top of the stressors that have been common for children over the decades.
It’s no wonder that a recent survey of more than 20,000 Cincinnati-area kids showed nearly one in three showed signs of mental health issues. While there are resources in our area to provide help for these children, such as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center and school counselors, more resources, especially in rural and less economically favored, are necessary.
But perhaps what we need most is communication. Mental health is still often stigmatized. Some may feel uncomfortable talking about mental health because they fear being perceived as “crazy”. Some might view depression or other mental health issues as a weakness that should be overcome. Many people may want to get help, but they may not know where to look. According to the Cincinnati Children’s Director of Psychiatry, up to half of children with mental health issues do not receive care.
For the sake of the children in our region, talk openly about mental health.
Kevin Necessary is an illustrator and editorial designer. His editorial cartoons appear on Sundays in The Enquirer.
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