KUTV — More and more kids and teens are dealing with mental health challenges, so much so that a national emergency has been declared to deal with the crisis.
Utah in particular struggles with youth mental health, as suicide is the number one killer of kids ages ten to 24.
Doctors say the first step in fighting this battle is starting the conversation.
“It’s not uncommon that within any given family, that talking about emotions or feelings may not be kind of the norm,” said Dr. Jeremy Kendrick, a psychologist at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
He said parents should look for opportunities to bring up the topic of mental health.
“Whether it’s seeing an interview like this on TV or seeing a billboard. An opportunity to bring it up and say like ‘we don’t talk a lot about feelings in our family, but is this something you ever experienced?’ Finding a way to open that dialogue with kids.”
If you normalize these talks at a young age, it will be easier as they approach rockier times like adolescence and puberty.
One thing that’s different now than years ago, is the stigma is starting to drop around mental health. Kids are talking about it in school and on social media and may be more likely to talk to adults about it if that dialogue is open.
Across the state, more and more kids and teens are using mental health resources on their own -- like the SafeUT app, and the crisis line.
“The best thing that a parent can do is ask,” said Mark Rapaport, the CEO of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
He said to talk to your pediatrician if you think your child’s anxiety is above normal levels. It’s important to address this early because it can lead to long-term problems, like mood disorders, substance abuse, and increased risk of suicide.
“You not only see diseases of the brain but diseases of the entire body associated with it.”
He said mental health challenges in children can lead to other physical health risks in their lifetime, like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.