GUEST APPEARANCE: Children’s mental health should be a priority for all of us | Opinion

May 1-7 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and I hope we all take this sentiment to heart.

Last October, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a state of emergency for children’s mental health. Two months later, the US Surgeon General issued a detailed advisory on the urgent need to address the country’s youth mental health crisis.

We are all aware that the pandemic has increased the challenges our young people face, having disrupted their schooling, socialization and development, as well as access to support services. Even before the pandemic, according to the opinion of the Surgeon General, mental health problems were the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes among young people, with up to 1 in 5 children aged 3 to 17 having a mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral disorder. mess.

The CDC reported that more than one in three high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic. Almost half of teenagers felt constantly sad or hopeless.

And, perhaps most chillingly, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34.

This issue is important to me not only as a state senator who stands up for our children and our families, but as a mother and grandmother.

I have heard of parents struggling to get counseling for their children, many of whom are on waiting lists for six months or more. I have heard from school districts seeing increasing numbers of students with mental health issues. I have heard of providers who lack the capacity to meet the growing demand for services.

Locally, there is a shortage of inpatient beds, which means children in crisis often end up in already overcrowded emergency rooms awaiting assessment. Clinics across the region are reporting hundreds of families awaiting care.

Studies have shown that students who feel connected to others at school report better mental health. Today, many area schools are placing more emphasis on mental health programs and counseling. I applaud these efforts and will continue to advocate for the resources schools and families need.

In February, I had the honor of presenting a Senate proclamation for School Guidance Week recognizing the school counselors who work so hard to support students in all aspects of their health and well-being.

This year’s state budget increases support for mental health services for children, students and veterans, and provides funding to increase capacity and help recruit more psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners .

As a government, we must continue to invest in mental health programs and treatments and ensure that funding is equitably distributed, especially in our rural areas, where access is more limited. We must prevent the closure of psychiatric beds, facilitate the opening of more beds to meet urgent needs and increase the workforce. We need to foster greater collaboration with experienced community providers, promote mental health education, and work together to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health.

As a community, we can all play a role by getting involved in the lives of our young people. Listen. Lawyer. Mentor. Volunteer.

Healthy children grow up to be healthy, successful adults who contribute to the strength and vitality of our communities. I often say that children are our future. And our future depends on their ability to thrive physically and mentally.

Mental health issues are real and treatable, and help is available.

In Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga, Ontario, Livingston and Seneca counties you can call 211 or visit be directed to local resources.

There is also the National Alliance on Mental Illness-NYS, or NAMI. To visit to find the affiliate near you.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In New York State, you can also use the Crisis Text Line and text Got5 to 741741 to reach a trained Crisis Counselor.

All of these resources are confidential.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health issue, know that you are not alone. Ask for help if you need it. Call my office at (315) 568-9816 if I can help you.

Pam Helming represents the 54th District in the New York State Senate. The 54th District includes all of Seneca and Wayne counties, as well as parts of Ontario, Cayuga, and Tompkins counties. Contact her at (315) 568-9816 or [email protected]