MidPoint: The Kids are NOT All Right! The Crisis in Teen Mental Health

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Psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanner, of the Emotional Wellness program of the Hillsborough Co. Public School System and psychotherapist Dr. Wendy Rice joined us on MidPoint to discuss the crisis in teen mental health one day after an 18-year-old boy shot his grandmother,2 teachers, and 18 4th graders at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tx. Research has shown that school shootings by teens are typically motivated by a mix of suicidal impulses, despair, and anger PLUS access to guns, and sometimes these factors are enhanced by online influences. If we can’t restrict access to guns then at least we may be able to have a better understanding of what to look for in our teens who may be in crisis and a better grasp of how to approach and assist them.

Schools are often the place where teens’ mental health problems manifest, whether it is acting out violently, or being a victim of bullying and having suicidal thoughts. The Hillsborough Co. Public School System has contracted with Gracepoint Wellness to provide mobile mental health crisis units. Dr. Tanner told WMNF that “if a school believes a student may have access to weapons and is having thoughts of suicide, the school can deploy a mobile crisis response team to come to the school and clinicians would work with that student on the spot.”

Dr. Rice noted that post-Covid, kids and their parents today are extremely stressed and living in a constant state of “flight or fight.” She suggested that a physical response to that is important, along with more traditional psychotherapies and sometimes medication; so walking, exercise, breathwork, meditation, more sleep, and good eating habits are also all helpful in mitigating the stresses teens are experiencing.

For more information and immediate referrals for help, dial 211, the Crisis Center Hotline. For information about how to talk to your teens about mental health and self-harm, go to https://www.onoursleeves.org/mental-health-resources or www.teensuicidepreventionsociety.org