It’s tough being a teenager, and the numbers prove it.
Nearly 40 percent of teens in Clinton, Ingham and Eaton counties say they’ve experienced signs of depression, according to this year’s Tri-county Community Health Improvement Plan. The Ingham County Health Department says they’re committed to addressing those mental health concerns.
Health officer Linda Vail says treating mental disorders early can help reduce and prevent other health issues like opioid addiction or binge drinking, issues that aren’t specific to mid-Michigan.
“Looking at behavioral health and substance abuse disorder and saying that is really a huge health issue in our community,” Vail says, “and it is in communities all across the country.”
Sara Lewandowski works with students in Shiawassee County and uses different methods based on what each child needs, instead of a one size fits all approach.
“What happens is you decrease the amount of children who really need that support by providing a lot of the preventative care first.” she says.
Both women say fighting the stigma around mental health awareness is one of the biggest battles.
“I don’t struggle with admitting that my kid has strep throat or maybe juvenile diabetes or something like that,” Vail says. “But when we start to go into drinking and behavioral health issues and things like that, I think we still tend to have that stigma affect us in terms of what we’re even willing to admit to ourselves.”
They hope by having more conversations about mental health, they can better prepare the next generation for long and healthy lives, physically and mentally.