Stroll into Light: Shining a Bright Light on the Teen Mental Health Crisis

BY EMILY DAVIS

Teens in America are in the midst of a mental health crisis.  Adolescence is a time when youth are struggling to fit in, emotionally and socially. They are vulnerable to bullying, social ostracization, family dysfunction, problems in school, and trauma, any of which may trigger a mental health issue.

The proportion of adolescents who have experienced a major depressive episode has steadily risen in recent years. The emerging mental health consequences of COVID-19 have added urgency to the need to find and treat adolescents experiencing depression.

Nathan Copeland of Duke Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences notes, “We have seen a nearly two-fold increase in depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms among children and adolescents.” Copeland added that, “Nearly 25 percent of kids are experiencing anxiety that’s impairing them.”

While using social media to stay connected to their social communities can be positive for teens, extensive use of social media also carries risks.  Social media use can negatively affect teens by distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people’s lives and peer pressure.

One local parent shares, “Parenting teens today can’t be compared to any past generations.  No matter how hard we try to protect their developing brains, they see things on screens we were never privy to in our younger years. It changes the actual wiring of the brain.”

Winston-Salem based licensed therapist Debbie McCaffrey comments, “Research abounds supporting the fact that anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and other mental health concerns are on the rise among teenagers. The contributing factors are many, but one thing is certain – teens everywhere are hurting. Now is the time for adults to take an active role in the lives of the teens in our community and family by opening the conversation about their mental health. A simple, “I care about you and I’m wondering how you are doing,“ is an easy way to engage young people in this important conversation.  As adults, it’s part of our job to provide a safe space for teens to share what’s really going on in their hearts and minds.“

There can be a negative stigma associated with the topic of mental health which prevents many students and families from coming forward to get the help they need.  Mental health stigma can lead to discrimination, whereby adolescents with mental health issues are treated differently or poorly because of their condition.

We invite you to join us as we expose the great need in our community to help our teens know they are loved and that there are people willing to listen and help them.

The mental health epidemic, especially in adolescents, only receives attention when a tragedy occurs or a life is lost. The Stroll into Light event recognizes that each person is fighting their own battle every day. Whether that is anxiety, depression, or any mental health related issue, no one person should feel alone in their situation. As a community, we must support each other and advocate for peoples’ stories to be heard. At this candlelight event, each attendee will receive a candle to reflect and walk side by side in the spirit of hope. For families and friends who have possibly lost a loved one to mental illness, they will have the chance to release a lantern into the sky in remembrance.  A Stroll into Light will also have an optional time of prayer, and there will be an opportunity to receive hope from individuals who themselves have risen from the darkness to walk in the light of life!

November 13th

Mount Tabor High School Track

Gates open at 5PM, Walk starts at 6PM

Proceeds will be donated to: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention & I Understand Love Heals

Presenting Sponsors: FITNUT, Fleet Feet Winston-Salem, Merhoff & Associates, & Performance Driven PT

Gold Sponsors: Handy & Handy Orthodontics, Pottery by Maddie, Mount Tabor Cross Country, Wood & Hogan Consulting

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