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Summit County

Youth disillusionment, mental health are focus of teen panel discussion Tuesday

Connect Summit County
Ask Me Anything Panel of Teens

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and local teens are talking about troubling trends and how adults can best support them at a panel discussion Tuesday night called Ask Me Anything. 

It’s hard to open a newspaper or turn on the news without a headline warning about a mental health crisis in teens. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control shows that youth who report poor mental health days have risen to 44 percent from 16 percent in the last three years. Pressure to perform and climate change are two leading contributors to the problem.

Mary Christa Smith is Executive Director of Communities that Care - a coalition focused on youth mental health, substance abuse prevention and suicide prevention. She says this upward trend of poor mental health and rising substance abuse in teens can be attributed to youth disillusionment, which has far-reaching effects beyond the mental health of teenagers.

“The Lancet Medical Journal did a study that looked at youth and mental health. And they, the World Economic Forum has cited this study as one of the greatest risks to the world economy and it’s youth disillusionment. And the reason from the study done with 10,000 youth across the world, is their deep dismay, and loss of faith in government for failing to act on climate change.”

CONNECT Summit County, a mental health non-profit, is working with Communities that Care to present a panel of five Summit County high school students to tackle these issues head on.

The panel is scheduled for Tuesday from 5-7:30 in the Kamas Library. It’s a free event with pizza and Spanish translation services, but registration ahead of time is required as space is limited to 50 people.

Smith says the students will talk about issues they most want adults to understand. And she says they have a lot to share about the complexities of their lives and pressures they face, “Whether it's pressure to perform the pandemic, the availability of drugs, you know, one of the things I've found most troubling in my interviews with young people and with law enforcement is how easy it is. You don't have to go to some creepy street corner anymore. It can be mailed to you, you can order these drugs online, and they are deadly, absolutely deadly. And so, you know, as parents we and trusted adults, we really, it's a whole new landscape, we need to have our eyes open our radars out. And we need to be doing some really deep policy work in this country because kids have access to everything all the time.”

Smith says the discussion will include three prepared questions; all five panelists will answer those and then a question and answer session will allow for audience input. She says, “It is in depth. And I have to say of all the events I participate in, and webinars and trainings that we do. This is the one that every year time after time people come back and say, Are you doing the youth panel again? When is that going to take place and they carry with them what they heard from the kids into their work and into their lives. And so they I'm just always amazed at the willingness they are to be candid and open and forthright. It's really refreshing.”

For more information and tickets please visit ConnectSummitCounty.org.