Leaders are continuing to recognize the urgency of the current state of youth mental health. Surgeon General Murthy recently released a public health advisory addressing this clear emergency, and he is certainly not alone in this recognition. This op-ed from a child psychiatrist explores the immense amount of mental health crisis occurring, discussing the need for more services and resources in schools, hospitals, and beyond. This urgency comes in the context of an observed rise of children committing suicide in Georgia, a trend which may relate to the creation of online spaces where suicide is being promoted through sharing knowledge on how and when to commit suicide. In addition, there’s been a notable increase in drug overdoses nationally, deadly shootings continue to plague schools, and access to proper healthcare can be scarce - especially in rural communities. These occurrences have something in common - they are situations where a child may incur an adverse childhood experience (ACE), marking their life forever. At this point, we know that PACEs (Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences) are of utmost importance to development, but the question stands - how do we decrease the impact of ACEs while maximizing that of positive experiences?
The first option would be to minimize the occurrence of ACEs. Putting an end to ACEs entirely is clearly out of reach, but there are certainly some measures that could support this goal. For example, this article by a teacher and survivor of the 2018 Parkland school shooting shares her perspective on the pattern of school shootings, urging legislators to implement protective measures to protect students against this tragic and all too common occurrence. As we continue to advocate for structural change in the priority of mental health, there are numerous amazing examples of how we can protect children on an individual level. This story shows how teachers and other caregivers can expand children’s ability to destress through music, painting, and theater sessions. This recent study found that involved parenting can act as an an antidote to the effects of racial discrimination of African-American children. Putting young kids in school can promote social competence, and many are working to ensure that as many children as possible have that access. Finally, mental healthcare can have a huge impact on transforming trauma into resilience. We’re grateful that CVS recently announced that they were launching a Mental Health Counseling programin an attempt to cover the gaps we are observing in access to care. For those unsure where to start with mental healthcare resources, this free resource finder can help locate customized instructions for supporting a child.