Hope in the Weeds; Facing the Mental Health Crisis Together

In this week’s episode the Mental Health Mamas are addressing the mental health crisis we are facing nearly everywhere right now. Tune in to hear Tina and Serena break down the Surgeon General’s Advisory: Protecting Youth Mental Health. And while the news headlines can be overwhelming, there are actions that we can ALL take to face this crisis together.

Notes and Mentions

Read the Surgeon General’s Report: Protecting Youth Mental Health

Compassion Resilience Event https://www.eventbrite.com/x/compassion-resilience-starts-with-you-tickets-243233406667

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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.

Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.


Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.

Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.

Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.

Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.

Serena: Today we would like to talk about youth mental health and specifically we want to respond to the Surgeon General’s Advisory that came out, last November?

Tina: I’m not sure exactly and yes, it’s an important document. Youth mental health has certainly been in the news a lot lately…and none of the headlines are good.

Serena: Yeah. A quick look at headlines reveals a lot to worry about. For example, “Nowhere to turn: Families are overwhelmed as kids’ mental health needs go unmet.” And, “Mental health needs of children are soaring and help can be hard to find.” Or what about…“US schools close again as children’s mental health declared national crisis.” I could keep going.

Tina: Uhhggg…Please do not.

Serena: OK. I won’t. It all feels so overwhelming.

Tina: It is hard to find a sense of hope in those headlines.

Serena: And this is why we want to talk about the Surgeon General’s Advisory and it’s titled Protecting Youth Mental Health.

Tina: And while this report paints a similar picture of the state of youth mental health, what we like about it is the call to action for all of us.

Serena: So we are going to start by breaking it down a bit for anyone who hasn’t seen it and we recommend that you go take a look at it. But we want to give kind of a summary of the report.

Tina: First let’s just lay out that this is not just another depressing statistical report. As I said, it is very practical and has very accessible tips and ways we can get ourselves out of this crisis….together! And that is a keyword, right Serena?

Serena: Yes, absolutely. So I’m going to start us off with a quote from the advisory and that is, “Ensuring healthy children and families will take an all-of-society effort, including policy, institutional, and individual changes in how we view and prioritize mental health.”

Tina: I want to emphasize again the ALL sentiment here. The surgeon general, I think I am saying this right, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is stating a call to action for all of us. I think when we think of mental health, some of us think that therapists are the answer, medication is the answer and we’ll tell you with all of the work Serena and I have done in the community and with families, both our own and other family, we truly believe that this is about all of us finding solutions together. So the point he is emphasizing here is the “from policy makers to individuals”, we must all work together, at every level to be well!

Serena: Yeah and I do think it’s important to take a moment and talk about some of the statistics mentioned in this advisory so that everyone gets kind of an idea of what we’re facing here. And they are not pretty but I think it’s important.

Tina: Let’s do it.

Serena: OK. So, we know that there were challenges prior to the pandemic and we have talked about this before on previous episodes. So the quote in the advisory is, “In 2016, of the 7.7 million children with treatable mental health disorder, about half did not receive adequate treatment.” So that right there. That is not good. Right?

Tina: No. No.

Serena: And then came the pandemic and here’s the quote from that, “Since the pandemic began, rates of psychological distress among young people, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, have increased.” There’s lots more statistics in the report and we are not going to get into all of the details. But I do think that this is a true statement for many of us, not just the youth in our communities.

Tina: For sure and we all different in lots of ways and it breaks a lot of those things down as well. And what we know to be true is that hard has become harder. People who were struggling before are probably struggling more and many people who were not struggling are also struggling. Some of those hard to harder categories include:

-Those having mental health challenges before the pandemic,

People who live in an urban area or an area where the more severe COVID-19 outbreaks have been

  • youth who have parents or caregivers who work on frontlines, right?

–Also the worried about COVID-19 can be overwhelming

–Or those who’ve experienced disruptions in routine, hello, our youth seriously

Serena: every day!

Tina: For two years now right? And that includes not just going to school but not seeing friends, things that are really important to youth mental health and growth.

–Youth experiencing more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, neglect, community violence, and discrimination

–Youth experiencing more financial instability, food shortages, or housing instability

–And last but certainly not least the youth who are experiencing trauma, such as losing family members or caregivers during COVID-19

Serena: That’s a lot of hard. Yeah, that’s a lot for anyone to handle, and we are thinking, these are kids right? These are our youth. So before we move on to the next part of this advisory, I’m just going to emphasize one more time that solving this will require ALL of us. The good news is that there are things that we can do. The rest of the advisory has been broken down into categories for how we can each take action. The categories that have been included are young people, family members and caregivers, educators, health care organizations and professionals, media organizations, community organizations, funders and foundations, employers, and governments. We encourage you, again, to take a look at the entire report, but we are going to focus on the section What Family Members and Caregivers Can Do since that’s what we do best!

Tina: That is who we are, for sure. The first thing we would like to highlight, one of the calls to action if you will, “Be the best role model you can be for young people by taking care of your own mental and physical health.” Now, we know all too well that if we take good care of ourselves, it is easier to take good care of our people. Serena and I can vouch for the fact that this is a revolving need for all of us to visit and revisit. We remind each other quite often about that. We happen to be having a free one hour on Compassion Resilience workshop on February 8th not too long from now, from 3-4PM EST. We are in the US for those of you listening elsewhere. We will link, there is an Eventbrite link to sign up. We will put that in our notes or if you just go on Eventbrite and search Compassion Resilience or Mental Health Mamas you can find it. Again, taking good care of yourself, your mental and physical health is essential to the wellbeing of our youth.

Serena: Absolutely! The next suggestion is, “Help children and youth develop strong, safe, and stable relationships with you and other supportive adults.” So we know that the research tells us that children need at least one safe, stable, nurturing relationship in order to be resilient. In order to be OK. We’ve talked about this before in terms of Being the One for youth in our communities. If you’re interested in hearing our thoughts on how to “Be the One”,

Tina: Which I am sure you are! Hahaha!

Serena: Yes! Check out Episode 19 from our first season, from Season 1. And while it’s important for youth to have one safe, stable, nurturing relationship, having more is even better. As a parent, you don’t have to be the only one! And that’s actually a great thing, right? It’s great if your kids have lots of supportive adults in their world. It’s great for you and great for your kids!

Tina: And phew! You don’t have to be the only one right? We’re going to skip over a couple of these what you can do and again they are all in the report, but another that we’d like to highlight. Having regular contact with your healthcare providers, again being a good role model as well as making sure that your youth has regular access to mental and physical healthcare is super important. More and more pediatricians, which is usually the first line right, is they are doing initial screenings for mental health care. I am so pleased to hear this. This was certainly not the case when my adults were younger and I am so grateful that it has become more mainstream to do this.

Serena: Those regular checkups are super important for all of us and in addition to that, the report also suggests to look out for warning signs of distress and seek help when needed. This is a kind of tricky topic. Often parents ask when they should seek help and what they should look for and there’s no definitive answer to this. There is no quick rule or checklist for this. So what I would say is that you know your child best, you are the expert. If you are concerned, seek help. There are lots of different people you could reach out to for support. We know that there’s a shortage of mental health professionals in our communities right now. Often starting with the child’s doctor is a good first step. Other ideas are school counselors or other mental health professionals or perhaps someone in your community. Bottom line, if you think your child needs help, ask for help and don’t stop asking until you find what you need.

Tina: And as a follow-up on that Serena, never underestimate the power of your community. Serena and I often ask (when we work with families) we ask people about their “champions” in the world. It is a bit like that “Be the One” piece. The truth is a champion can come in lots of packages. Who do you or your youth connect with? Who is one of those people in your community, perhaps school who just totally gets your youth? Lean on these folks to help. It’s important to have others in your child’s life.

Serena: Yes. Absolutely so when I think about our journey as a family, it was often those champions that helped us bridge a gap or make it through a tough time or get me through. So that could be school nurses, people at your church, coaches, neighbors…anyone can be a champion.

Tina: You’re one of my champions, for sure. And we all need them! I love the Brene Brown Independence vs Dependence video right. We all think that being independent is awesome but the fact is if you are dependent, it means that you love and that you need and that is super important so we all need each other. And let’s go next to one that is a bit of a hot button and can be a little trick in families especially as your youth becomes a teen. Online communication, or any kind of digital communication from texting to social media can be tricky. And we know it’s affecting the mental health of our youth, for sure. It is positive in that it keeps those lines of communication open and your kids connected to others, but we all know that it can be negative. We know that bullying, pervasive bullying quite honestly, your child could find harmful information out there and probably the most innocuous is comparing yourself to people. Seriously that is harming our kids. Just looking at a picture of someone looking pretty and smiling might be harmful. There is information in the report including questions you might ask yourself about your child’s use of technology. And we encourage you to take a look at that.

Serena: Yeah. I always say that when I was a kid, If I had access to the internet, I would have gotten is so much trouble! I can’t even imagine

Tina: I am not going there. Not going there!

Serena: One final suggestion we’d like to highlight is to be a voice for mental health in your community. We say this all the time and we’re going to keep saying it. Talk about mental health. Let’s normalize this conversation. Talk to other adults, talk to your kids, talk to your work colleagues. Just talk about it!

Tina: Yes!! Shout it from the rooftops! Normalize, normalize, normalize. We ALL have mental health as we say. As we might have said once or twice on this show before right? We all have mental health. Are you well or do you need support?

Serena: So there is one thing missing from this advisory that is super important and I think we need to talk about it.

Tina: Let’s do it.

Serena: OK. So while it’s great that there are all of these categories of what each of us can do, what’s missing, from my perspective, is the collaboration. We cannot work in silos and expect to solve this crisis. It’s only by working together that we will create change.

Tina: Yes. Silos. Anti-silos. No silos, right? We need to work better together. So we are issuing you, our listeners, a permission slip to all of you family members out there and perhaps to those of you listening who are in the other categories, educators, health care professionals, community organizations, funders and foundations. Let’s get together, let’s work together to support our youth and help foster their wellbeing. Solutions to big issues are best solved by working together in positive partnerships. That is a lot of Ps!

Serena: That is a lot of Ps! Important though. And one more point for everyone listening. Please continue to be gentle with yourself during this very challenging time. We are all doing our best to support our youth and ourselves and this is tough.

Tina: And let’s just say, this is our first ever global pandemic and we are doing the best we know how to do. And we need each other. You are not alone, right? Be gentle with yourself. That is excellent advice Serena! Podcast friends, we are, as always, grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leaving us a review, subscribing and please share with others. You will find lots more content on our website NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com.

Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.

Tina: Thanks again for listening!

Serena: Bye!