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ND Provider: Teen Mental-Health Needs Are Visible

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Thursday, April 28, 2022   

As the school year winds down, mental-health providers say they recognize many students still feel the weight of the pandemic, and in North Dakota, it has prompted a more dedicated response to help kids dealing with higher levels of stress and anxiety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued findings which showed more than a third of high school students reported having poor mental health during the crisis. Another 44% said they persistently felt sad or hopeless in the past year.

Christy Wilkie, a therapist with Dakota Family Services, said they have seen a big increase in referrals.

"When they do come into the office, we're seeing more anxiety, more depression," Wilkie reported. "And I would say it's more intense anxiety."

She said some of it might be greater awareness from parents after spending more time together during the crisis. Any family financial stress or disruptions in connections with peers are other factors. Wilkie pointed out they are doing more outreach with local schools to help identify concerning situations and to navigate the referral process.

Wilkie emphasized they are also trying to help fill gaps in areas where services are scarce, including having one of their staff routinely visiting a rural high school in Barnes County to provide therapy. She added telehealth has helped during a time of greater need.

"The schools will provide spaces for kids to do therapy in school," Wilkie noted. "It's one less barrier to getting help for kids when the parent doesn't have to take time off and drive them to the clinic and then wait for that hour and then drive them back."

Despite the extra efforts, Wilkie stressed waiting lists are long, and recruiting is ramping up in hopes of adding providers. The CDC report revealed more than half of high school students reported experiencing emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in their home during the pandemic.

References:  
Survey CDC 04/01/2022

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