Thursday, May 18, 2023

New Campaign Highlights Mental Health Crisis Among Children and Teens

Across the country, there has been a rise in depression, trauma and suicidality among youth, resulting in a declaration of a national state of emergency in children’s mental health. Austin and Travis County mirror these trends and are making children’s mental health a public health priority. Austin Public Health (APH) and Integral Care are launching a public awareness campaign called “Ask, Listen, Talk, Repeat” to help parents and caregivers start critical conversations with our children and youth, a generation that is sometimes forgotten when discussing mental health.  

Recent mental health data in Austin-Travis County shows: 

  • In the City of Austin, suicide deaths among children and youth rose by 65 percent in five years.  

  • Suicide was the underlying cause of death for 33 people aged 24 and younger in 2022.  

  • In that same year children and youth in Travis County visited emergency departments a total of 40,254 times with a mental, behavioral or emotional issue. 

Nationally, studies have shown that 1 in 6 children in the United States experience a mental health disorder and that nearly 50 percent of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by the age of 14. 

“In the last few years, our children’s mental health has been besieged by several factors from losing time with friends due to the pandemic to the rise in usage of social media,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority. “Let's start our response with simple conversations. Take the time to talk with your kids about how they are feeling and pay attention to changes in behavior.” 

“Mental health matters for all ages. By nurturing self-awareness early, we can help our children and teens support their mental well-being into adulthood,” believes David Evans, Chief Executive Officer at Integral Care. “This campaign offers tools to have open, honest conversations about mental health – so conversations about our feelings are as common as talking about other aspects of our lives.” 

The “Ask, Listen, Talk, Repeat” campaign seeks to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health while creating a safe environment for kids to talk about it. The campaign’s website, AskListenTalk.org, provides parents and caregivers resources to support their children – how to spot a mental health issue, how to start the conversation, how to support your own mental health and how to get help throughout Austin and Travis County. Organizers believe these efforts will help lower the negative stigma that is still associated with mental health. 

“Our children have experienced unprecedented disruptions in the last three years due to COVID-19 and its aftermath,” said Travis County Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Travillion. “With this campaign, we look to give parents, caretakers and the community the tools they need to build on important conversations and expand their connections with their village.” 

"Mental health is a crucial part of our well-being and it’s important that we treat it as such. We also must recognize that we have a role in affecting each other's mental health,” said District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison. “Take some time to check in on yourself and your loved ones, especially our children.” 

Resources for this campaign are provided by the City of Austin, Travis County and Integral Care.  

Visit AskListenTalk.org to learn more about the children’s mental health public health priority and how you can promote mental health in your home. 

Find our toolkit on children's mental health here.

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