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Mayo offering webinar on youth mental health

La Crosse Tribune - 9/11/2022

Sep. 10—Nearly one year ago, youth mental health was declared a national emergency, with the pandemic exacerbating an already prevalent issue.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children's Hospital Association in October 2021 made the declaration as rates of depression and anxiety doubled among adolescents. The CDC's Youth Risk Behavior report found the number of high schoolers experiencing "persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness" increased by 40% from 2009 to 2019, and the number of youth who said they had made a suicide plan in the past year went up by 44%, with around 1 in 6 reporting such in 2019.

To help families understand and address mental health issues, Mayo Clinic Health System is presenting "Empowering Families: Strengthening Youth Mental Health" from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14. The free webinar will be hosted by Janice Schreier, clinical therapist at Mayo Clinic Health System La Crosse, and is designed for middle and high school age youth and their parents or guardians.

Families, Schreier says, "can play a key role in helping their children take advantage of the treatment recommendations to reduce and manage symptoms."

Mayo has in recent years seen a significant rise in the number of youth being referred for mental health services, presenting with depression, eating disorders, addiction issues and more. Schreier estimates that ER visits related to a mental health issues have gone up 30%.

The rise of social media, digital content, isolation, and external stressors, such as racial injustice, politics and gun violence can all contribute to feelings of depression, anger and anxiety. Academic pressures also have an impact, especially as students return to the classroom setting. During the pandemic, many schools relaxed homework and test standards due to virtual learning. Now, Schrier says, expectations are once again high and potentially overwhelming.

Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, Schreier says, are manageable, but require a multifaceted approach which includes family support and involvement. Just as with treating a physical health condition, several elements must be included to increase the chance of success. During the program, Schreier will cover several evidence based, "hands on (methods) they can put into place immediately. The more you do, the better the results. We need to get parents and we need to get kids more active in (their treatment)."

A care plan may include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, increasing sleep, and more. Of great importance is increasing social opportunities, as limited interactions during the pandemic have left youth with diminished social skills. Some of those who once were active in sports and extracurricular activities, or frequently met up with friends, haven't returned to the practices.

"I'd like to see kids get more involved in activities outside of the home with peers their age — school activities, community activities — because we know that social connection is very important not just for depression and anxiety, but it's one of the most important things for recovery from substance abuse," says Schreier.

To register for the webinar, visit


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