Teen podcast host tackles mental health stigma


LAND O ‘LAKES, Florida – This fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.

What would you like to know

  • Advocacy groups have declared a national child and youth mental health emergency this fall
  • Land O ‘Lakes teen Eliza Smith hosts a podcast discussing the mental health challenges teens and adults face
  • A doctor said his team had seen an increase in cases of problems such as anxiety, depression, overdoses and suicide attempts among young people in Tampa Bay.
  • Advocates say integrating mental health care into primary pediatric care and making more resources available in schools are among the steps they would like to see taken

“As healthcare professionals dedicated to the care of children and adolescents, we have witnessed an increase in the rates of mental health problems in children, adolescents and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic , exacerbating the situation that existed before the pandemic, ”the groups said in a statement released in October.

This is an issue that Eliza Smith says she is well aware of.

“Personally, I deal with depression and anxiety,” said Smith, a 16-year-old student at Land O ‘Lakes High School. “I know a lot of my friends who struggle with depression, anxiety, ADHD, ADD, and I really wanted to have a platform where we can raise awareness because there are a lot of stereotypes and stigma around health. mental. “

It’s like that “Be bold, be beautiful, be you” has been created. This is a podcast hosted by Smith that features interviews with friends and family on topics related to mental health.

“I want to kind of open up a field for conversation and help others and encourage others to get help and start these conversations,” Smith said.

Smith gave Spectrum Bay News 9 permission to watch a recording of a recent episode. She interviewed her friend, Jana Swank, 17, who told Smith she had suffered from anxiety since college.

“One thing I’m trying to stress is that anxiety, depression, having a mental illness are not the same for everyone. So tell me what it is, personally, for you.” , Smith asked during recording.

“I don’t really like talking to people I don’t know. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this, but the first day of school when I saw you I didn’t tell you … about kept for me, ”Swank replied.

After the recording, Swank said it wasn’t a difficult decision to share his own journey of mental health.

“When she said to me, I was like, ‘I would love to be there. I would love to share my experiences and share what I have been through’, because sharing things can help people,” he said. she declared.

“To have people like Jana here and to have everyone that I’ve had so far is really heartwarming, and I really sympathize with them because we don’t hear the views and opinions very often. of our friends, ”Smith mentioned.

Dr Jennifer Katzenstein, co-director of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Center for Behavior Health, said when it comes to mental health and youth in Tampa Bay, her team is seeing a significant increase in conditions such as anxiety, depression, disruptive behavior. , sleep problems, overdoses, suicide attempts and eating disorders. Like the advocacy groups that issued the national emergency declaration, Katzenstein said the pandemic appears to have exacerbated a problem that was already growing before COVID.

“We knew we did not have enough providers for both psychiatry and medication management, as well as therapists, counselors and psychologists to meet the mental health needs of our children and adolescents before the pandemic. Then, on top of that, we put the uncertainty of the pandemic, ever-changing information, and additional stressors for our families and children, both in terms of potentially financial needs, the loss of a parent, changes in education and lack of contact, ”Katzenstein said.

The AAP, AACAP and CHA said in their statement that they are calling for action from policy makers and advocates. Some of the actions they want to see taken include ensuring equal access to telehealth services, increasing the implementation and sustainable funding of school-based mental health care, and accelerating the development of school-based mental health care. adoption of integrated mental health care in primary care pediatrics. Katzenstein also stressed the importance of mental health care in primary care settings. She said efforts should be made to reduce the stigma young people face when seeking mental health supports and to strengthen the mental health workforce.

“As part of this declaration of emergency, I hope it has raised awareness among state and federal legislatures so that they are able to recognize the importance and need for mental health interventions for children, and at the same time, the necessary funding and advocacy supports to bring all of these ideas to life and prevent future mental health problems, ”Katzenstein said.

Smith said she would like to see more on-campus mental health resources in schools and educational programs for faculty, staff and students to learn to recognize the warning signs a person may be experiencing. with a mental problem and how to react correctly.

“It’s important that when we have these resources, we use them and empathize, if that makes sense, because there might be a kid in this class who needs to know that, and someone ‘one making a joke is unacceptable, “said Smith.

In addition to the podcast, Smith said she used her reign as the 2021 Miss Land O ‘Lakes Teen USA to raise awareness about mental health issues as well.

“I am happy that she took advantage of her own experiences and gave it to the world,” said Smith’s mother, Bhuneeta Parsan. “She doesn’t sugarcoat it or do what a lot of people do and lie and make it look like it’s not what it is. She’s honest, she’s open, she’s -” Take. It’s me. Take it or leave it ” .”

“The younger ones – teens, teens – we can experience these things,” Smith said of mental health issues. “A lot of people tend to ignore it and say, ‘Oh, you’re just a kid, your problems don’t matter.’ But it’s so important to recognize that their problems matter. “

Anyone interested in potentially appearing as a guest on an upcoming episode of Smith’s podcast can fill out this form.

Katzenstein recommends that parents spend time talking with their children away from electronic devices every day to check in. interactions. For school-aged children and teens, she said to watch out for some of those same signals, as well as more hopelessness, crying and anxiety, as well as loss of interest in children. activities they once enjoyed or changes in personal hygiene. Katzenstein said if children and teens say they are having thoughts of hurt on themselves or others, it’s time to ask for help.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Warning signs that a person is considering suicide may include showing rage or talking about revenge, talking about being a burden to others, and looking for a way to kill themselves, such as looking up. online or buy a gun. Find out more here.


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