Source: © By B-D-S Piotr Marcinski | Shutterstock
Last week I wrote a post titled “An Open Letter to Parents of Children with Mental Illness,” and although I’m not a parent, I wrote about how I terrified my parents with the severity of my mental illness and my self-destructive behaviors.
This past week, the New York Times published a heartbreaking series of articles about the mental health crisis among kids. Author Matt Richtel spent more than a year interviewing adolescents and their families for these four articles. The increase in the severity and frequency of anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidality that he reports is alarming and seems to have no immediate solution. There is a dearth of therapists, and child and adolescent psychiatrists who accept insurance are in even shorter supply.
I’m frightened for this generation. As a survivor, I know how critical it is for intensive treatment to start as soon as possible, and how languishing in the emergency room as a psychiatric patient can aggravate symptoms. As a therapist, I know these kids need to develop healthy coping skills to be able to tolerate the emotions that are driving them to self-harm and suicidal ideation.
At age 14, to deal with my confusion and the feelings I couldn’t verbalize, I started smoking pot and continued to do so almost every day until I graduated college. When I started working in advertising after college and playing softball in the NYACSL (New York Advertising Co-Ed Softball League), I had a great time partying after the games, but a friend also introduced me to cocaine and I quickly got hooked. For 10 years, I was begging for help. I didn’t know it and no one around me figured this out.
For my first therapeutic experience in the early 1980s, I got involved with an incompetent therapist and psychiatrist, and under their care, became severely anorexic. Another cry for help, only this one went unanswered and ended up leading to a close brush with death. This therapist literally sat and watched me session after session drop pound after pound until I was a skeleton. My mother threw me in her car and admitted me to an eating disorder unit where I stayed for six months until I was weight restored.
Back in 1975, when I was 14, therapy wasn’t on everyone’s radar, like it is now, but I have to believe that if I had started treatment then, instead of 10 years later, it wouldn’t have taken me until into my fifties to achieve full, sustained recovery.
The current situation is more of a crisis than most realize. According to Times reporting, “In 2019, 13 percent of adolescents reported having a major depressive episode, a 60 percent increase from 2007. Emergency room visits by children and adolescents in that period also rose sharply for anxiety, mood disorders, and self-harm. And for people ages 10 to 24, suicide rates, stable from 2000 to 2007, leaped nearly 60 percent by 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Where are these kids going to be in 10 years?
Thanks for reading. Andrea
Source: © Andrea Rosenhaft