Olentangy Valley News

Guest column

As kids' stress increases, board is there

Do you think kids are stressed out more today than in previous generations? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Studies have shown increases in stress, anxiety and depression as compared to a generation ago.

There are increased concerns about money, changing family dynamics and an increase in the pressure to succeed in school, as well as athletics and other extracurricular activities. Social pressures combined with social media are creating a new world in which the previous generation did not have to contend.

While kids today participate more in "social" media, they have never felt more isolated and less socially connected. Social media sites, which have grown exponentially in recent years, offer a portal for entertainment and communication. Some sites offer kids healthful outlets and ways to increase socialization skills, but not all. Parents are encouraged to be aware of these sites in order to promote healthful use and monitor for potential problems, which may include cyberbullying, "Facebook depression," sexting and exposure to inappropriate content.

Another factor adding stress to children and adolescents is the 24/7 news cycle. Greater access to horrific events of the past year has exposed youth to skewed perceptions of the frequency and scope of these events by the media. The increasing exposure to frightening events, shown over and over again, has potential to impact a youth's sense of safety and security.

The Delaware and Morrow County communities have recognized these trends. The Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and its funded agencies have responded by dedicating resources to identifying potential issues and connecting families to the proper resources.

One of the programs is the placement of mental health school liaisons within school districts. These mental health professionals are employees of the Central Ohio Mental Health Center and spend time at designated schools. The program helps to identify issues that are barriers to learning and the well-being of students.

The school liaisons provide assistance to students identified by the school or students who are seeking someone to talk with. The liaisons also educate teachers on warning signs to look for, creating a team approach to early intervention for at-risk kids. The liaisons connect kids and their families, if necessary, to resources to assist with the issues.

By working to address these issues early, within the school setting, students have a better understanding of being healthy, physically and emotionally. It also helps to reduce the stigma of mental health issues, which is the primary barrier to seeking help.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a time when we seek to illuminate issues that affect us all and to share the community-based programs supported by local levy dollars. In short, there is good work being done and we want you to know about it.

To learn more about the Mental Health School Liaison program and Mental Health Month, visit dmmhrsb.org.

Steve Hedge is the executive director of the Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.