Why we need to address children's mental health challenges before they hit the crisis point

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

The following commentary, by LSSND CEO Jessica Thomasson, was published in the Sunday, March 10, 2019, edition of The Forum.

Thomasson: "It means we need to do something to help before their struggle becomes a crisis."

We know something has to change. We even know what it is. And I think more and more of us are coming to understand that the time is now to make it happen.

A recent USA Today article highlighted several studies that point to the fact that the rate of drug and alcohol deaths, and death by suicide, are at their highest recorded point. That these crises are affecting people of every age, every background, in every part of the country, including our own. And that just looking at the crisis itself is missing the point.

If we want this to change, we have to help people figure out the root cause of their distress and/or despair. To look square in the eye the reasons people are using chemicals and risky behaviors to cover-up things they don't know how to deal with another way.

And we have to start looking at this epidemic in our children.

You cannot go a day without seeing a headline, research study, or bit of evidence that says in yet another way what we all know from my own experience. From the experience of our neighbors, our friends and our family. That children are struggling, and at younger ages.

Their struggle does not mean that they are broken. It means we need to do something to help before their struggle becomes a crisis.

All of us are coming to understand that our mental well-being is as important as our physical well-being, and that there are steps each of us can take to nurture that well-being in ourselves and in our children, in our friends and in our co-workers.

If you want to know more about signs of distress – about what you should watch for and how you can help – join us on March 26 or 27.

Imagine Thriving, in connection with the annual ND Family-Based Services Association

Taylor Berhow will tell the story of how he transitioned from self-medicating with alcohol to deal with grief to incarceration for manslaughter.

conference, is hosting two free-to-the-community events at the Holiday Inn Fargo. One, by conference keynote speakers Dr. David and Erin Walsh, is called Why do they act the way they do? A survival guide to the adolescent brain.” The second is Taylor Berhow’s “Moment of Impact” – a first-hand story of one young man's journey from “normal” high school student who used alcohol to cope with a friend’s death, to prison inmate serving time for manslaughter. Taylor talks about what parents and kids can watch for, and how they can intervene before substance abuse and mental health struggles become crises.

Our well-being is not automatic. It's something we work at. We nurture. We build. But for this building to happen we need to have the right tools.

Crisis is often a catalyst. We simply must not let it be our sole focus.

Jessica Thomasson

CEO, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota

Find more info on these events at imaginethriving.org

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