INDIANAPOLIS — As normalcy slowly starts to return in our lives, the need for mental health services is only increasing, especially among kids and teens.
“We got 26 phone calls in one day last week, and three years ago, that would’ve been an entire month,” said Jessica Hood, licensed clinical social worker.
Hood, who also owns Indy Child Therapist, recently hired six new therapists to keep up with the demand within her agency.
“By the time that we get all of our therapists full, we will be seeing over a thousand clients a month,” she said.
Lately, Hood says she’s seeing kids, as young as 4, with anxiety, along with a steady increase of teenagers battling depression.
So what’s contributing to the increase?
Hood says it’s a variety of factors, including last year’s challenges during the height of the pandemic and the impact it’s had on kids and their school, social and family lives.
“There’s excitement about being big enough, and old enough, to ride the bus, and go to school, and be around friends and have recess,” said Hood, “but then everything changed, and it was kind of this ping-pong, back and forth, between school and home, and schedules changing week by week, and we know that kids thrive on consistency, and routine, and that was just not present last year.”
“Those 18, 19 year-olds really haven’t been able to go through kind of the normal life transitions that those kids would be able to,” she added. “They weren’t able to go on college tours, and they have their open houses, and graduation parties, and graduation looks so different than it ever has. So we’re finding that they’re also really struggling.”
Navigating the last year and a half, Hood says, has also presented rough challenges for parents.
“Parents haven’t parented during a pandemic before, so they’re really not quite sure how to help their kids while trying to adjust to all of these changes themselves as well,” Hood said.
“With all the changes, and with anxiety, they don’t have as much bandwidth to help their kids with their emotions as they did in the past because they’re emotionally tapped from having to deal with this,” she added.
Along with the pandemic’s impact, Hood says kids and teens are also more aware of issues in today’s society, which is also triggering feelings of anxiety and uneasiness.
“Their access to technology, to the news, to social media, to memes, whatever it is… They are just more aware of what’s going on in the world, but that can also lead to them feeling unsafe and unsure,” Hood said, “and so that makes it more important than ever for parents to have conversations with their kids about what’s going on, and not leave it to social media to be the ones educating them.”
Another factor, and possible silver lining to the rising cases, is the falling stigma that surrounded mental health. As society continues to normalize help and resources, Hood says more families and community groups are getting comfortable with reaching out.
“Kids are more willing to do it. Parents are more aware of it, and it’s just more readily accessible than it ever has been in history,” said Hood.
“Whether that’s the Boys & Girls Club, teachers, primary care doctors, they’re doing a better job of screening for some of these things, whether it’s ADHD, or depression or anxiety,” Hood added. “So then they’re referring those things out to the people who are best suited to help them.”
Hood notes some of the common signs of anxiety/depression among kids/teens include:
- Headaches/stomach pain
- Picking at fingers
- Similarities to ADHD: forgetfulness, disorganization, impulsivity, hyperactivity, fidgeting
Because some signs aren’t always easy to see, Hood recommends the best method is checking in often and talking with your kids.
“You’re not going to make your kids depressed by asking if they’re depressed. You’re not going to make your kids contemplate suicide by asking them if they’re suicidal,” said Hood. “Just asking them about their feelings, what they’re struggling with, can be really helpful.”
As part of efforts to keep up with the growing demand, Indy Child Therapist is also expanding its building, in addition to hiring new therapists. A grand re-opening for the building is planned for August 6th, from 3 – 6 p.m., at 7002 Graham Road, Suite 211.
Hood says immediate openings are available for people needing help.