‘Disconnect to Connect’ continues to address mental health

XENIA — It has been a full year since the series “Disconnect to Connect” came out, a continuing movement that Greene County community partners implemented to raise awareness about the mental health crisis facing children and youth.

This awareness campaign was not designed to attach any causal relationship between technology use and mental well-being. Instead, it is an ongoing effort to uncover how children, youth, and families make use of technology and how to find the balance between productive use and avoiding or minimizing any harmful aspects, according to GCPH.

Although mental health challenges in this age group were already a growing concern, rates of psychological distress among young people have increased even more since the COVID-19 pandemic began. A recent advisory by U.S. Surgeon General DR. Vivek H. Murthy details the situation.

Below are some statistics highlighted in the advisory.

— 80,000 youth globally found that depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic.

— 25 percent of those 80,000 youth experienced depressive symptoms and 20 percent experienced anxiety symptoms.

— Impulsivity and irritability, associated with conditions such as ADHD, appear to have moderately increased.

— Emergency department visits in the United States for suspected suicide attempts were 51 percent higher for adolescent girls and 4 percent higher for adolescent boys compared to the same time in early 2019.

— Half of all mental health issues begin by age 14 and three-quarters emerge by the mid-20s.

— 70 percent of teens with mental health needs do not receive appropriate care.

The advisory also cited various hypotheses proposed by scientists to explain these trends in reporting of mental health challenges with one of those being the growing use of digital media.

“There are environmental factors outside of our control (positive and negative life experiences), personality, and coping styles, and biological factors (genes and brain chemistry) that impact the mental health and well being of our children and youth,” GCPH officials said in a release. “However, there are external factors that we collectively have the power to adjust such as quantity and quality of our digital use. While computers, smart phones, and tablets play an important role in education and enhance our lives in many ways, excessive or inappropriate use are cause for concern.”

Greene County Public Health officials, along with the Mental Health Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison Counties, the Greene County Public Library, Greene County Children Services, Greene County Family & Children First Council, and the Greene County Educational Service Center are working collaboratively to raise community awareness of the problem along with providing resources and practical information to help children, youth, educators, parents, families, and community organizations make impactful changes toward improving mental health and well-being of Greene County’s young people.

During the next few months, the six-part series of articles that ran in 2022 will be re-distributed, beginning with this article, all leading up to GCPH’s annual effort to unplug during National Unplug Day, which will be Friday, March 1, 2024 in Greene County. Each article will focus on a specific age group and things everyone all can do to support mental health and resilience in the county’s young people.

• Infants to preschoolers – December.

• Elementary and middle school students – January

• High School students – January.

• College students – February.

• Educators, parents, community at large – February.

These articles will be featured in the Greene County Dailies twice each month. In addition to the articles, these community partners will also be producing materials to be distributed via local schools and community libraries that will highlight helpful tips, information, and community resources. Supportive information and infographics will be shared countywide throughout this series and beyond.