Youth mental health concerns on the rise

The U.S Surgeon General is sounding the alarm about the nation’s youth mental health.
Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 8:42 PM CST
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THE SHOALS, Ala. (WAFF) - The U.S. Surgeon General is sounding the alarm about the nation’s youth mental health. In the Shoals, the concern is the same.

“Kids are caring all this, what we call toxic stress and it’s going to come out and we’re finding that it’s often anger, aggression, fighting,” said Muscle Shoals City Schools mental health coordinator, Misty Reid.

Reid has decades of experience helping youth with mental health concerns. Her new role is the mental health coordinator for Muscle Shoals City Schools.

“We’re just seeing huge increases in anxiety and depression in our students. More suicidal ideation than I’ve ever seen,” said Reid.

Their data shows 41 percent of their students have anxiety and stress concerns, 35 percent academic difficulty, and 38 percent behavior.

Florence City Schools said they have seen a small increase too.

“I think any time we’re moving forward or walking out of some kind of an event as we have in the past year and still having these lingering effects as we are seeing with this. Levels of stress and anxiety will increase and have increased,” said Director of Instruction & Federal Programs Casey Reed.

Reid said the only answer to curb this is resources.

“These kids can be OK, if they have loving, caring adults who can help them build resilience,” said Reid.

Both school districts have many resources, from a community partnership with Riverbend to hands-on faculty and staff.

“It just speaks volumes. They are not just concerned with the physical health of these kids but also their social and emotional health,” said Reid.

But she said there need to be more state funds for mental health resources, especially for those students in rural or low-income areas.

“Today if your child has a problem arise, it’s going to take two to three weeks to get them in just to be assessed by a mental health professional. It’s going to be another two to three months before you can get in with a child psychiatrist,” said Reid.

There are only outpatient facilities in the Shoals. The closet inpatient facility is an hour away in Decatur which also has no beds.

“It’s important that community agencies like Riverbend are getting the proper funding, Safeplace is getting the proper funding because it’s all a triangulation there,” said Reid.

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