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Expert advice for improving students mental health as it hits crisis levels

“It’s hard to deal with even being a teenager"
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Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 17:57:45-04

HAMBURG, NY (WKBW) — “Growing up is very difficult and there's a lot that kids have to deal with,” declared Anne Constantino, president & CEO, Horizon Health.

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Presentation at Hilbert College Friday.

Pediatric health experts are declaring an urgent warning saying the mental health crisis of children is a “national emergency.”

The American academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children's Hospital Association says they are witnessing "soaring rates of mental health challenges" among kids and teens.

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Maykayla Nunley, freshman, Hilbert College.

“It’s hard to deal with even being a teenager, but especially when you are young and you're still trying to figure out who you are,” explained Maykayla Nunley, freshman, Hilbert College.

The health professionals say it is a "worsening crisis" tied to stress bought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and on-going struggle for racial justice.

There's been a significant rise in mental health and substance use disorders for teens and it boiled over during the pandemic.

But the topic of the ‘State of Mental Health Today for High School Students’ took center stage at Hilbert College in Hamburg Friday.

Area high school counselors gathered to hear from experts about emerging trends and how to help students.

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Mark Veronica, president, High School Counselors’ of Western New York.

“Students are coming to school under more and more stress and the pandemic has only accelerated that,” remarked Mark Veronica, president, High School Counselors’ of Western New York.

Constantino, of Horizon Health, served as keynote speaker Friday.

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Anne Constantino, president & CEO, Horizon Health.

“There's no beginning and no end to what is impacting our children. I think what our role is — is to be available and open and to know when to get additional help,” Constantino suggested.

Constantino explained it is important for school counselors to provide compassion and empathy to students, even if dealing with bad behavior.

“They’re kind of the catch all for every single issue,” noted Constantino. “But it's so important to remember if we respond with kindness and compassion, which these counselors do all the time — that it really helps open the door for healing and wellness.”

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Panel of experts at Hilbert College discuss student mental health.

Depression, anxiety and even bullying are three main factors that high school students are dealing with when it comes to their mental health.

“Kids are plugged into social media a lot and I think it creates a false picture of what health and happiness is and many kids don’t know how to deal with that,” Constantino discussed.

“Through out high school I suffered through depression,” Nunley explained.

Nunley says tells me she's dealt with her own mental health problems.

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Maykayla Nunley, freshman, Hilbert College.

“It definitely took a lot learning to be happy with just myself,” replied Nunley. “We’re not really taught in high school how to adult, per se. I think we're trying to have to figure this out ourselves."

“The stress level of students, I think, is at an all time high,” Veronica stated.

Veronica said students are dealing with a number of stresses.

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High school counselors attended Friday's event.

“There's all this pressure in the community and the social strife that's going on in the world and the health concerns,” responded Veronica.

But for now, as Maykayla navigates her first year of college, she says she is managing her mental health.

“I feel like I don't have anything to hide here. I feel like I can be exactly who I want to be and I have support coming from all angles,” reflected Nunely.

Important Phone Numbers
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, the following resources are available 24/7:
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Services (local) 716-834-3131
  • Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860
  • Trans Lifeline Canada 1-877-330-6366