News Article Details

Mental health and Manatee's youth. Two organizations start a local conversation

Bradenton Herald - 12/4/2018

Dec. 03--Bradenton -- A healthier community starts with hard conversations.

Manatee Community Foundation held a conversation on Monday afternoon, partnering with Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital to push for the well-being of local youth.

"Trauma in the home, isolation, addiction to social media, anxiety, bullying, school shootings -- all of these things are more commonly discussed today than they ever have been," said Susie Bowie, the foundation's executive director.

She connects with donors and their various passions, whether they hope to improve foster care, advance grade-level reading, fight drug addiction or end domestic violence.

Each issue has its own challenges and remedies, but they also share a common thread: mental health.

Monday's conversation -- made possible by the Seider Family Trust Fund -- centered on misconceptions and needs in health care.

Jennifer Katzenstein, director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins, cited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as she debunked several myths.

Some believe mental disorders surface in obvious ways. Others equate mental illness with violent behavior, though people with severe mental illnesses are actually 10 times more likely to be victims of a violent crime when compared to the general population, she said.

"All of us in this room know someone with a mental health concern and likely don't even realize it, because individuals with mental health concerns are highly active and productive members of society," she said.

One in five teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 have a mental health condition, with half of all mental illnesses starting by the age of 14, said Katzenstein, citing the World Health Organization and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

One's biology, life experiences and family history are all factors that contribute to mental health. It has nothing to do with being "lazy or weak," she said, adding that some people can expect a full recovery with treatment.

Yet tight funding and long wait times often plague the industry, a frustrating reality for both families and health care providers.

Katzenstein is frustrated by complex legislation and the ongoing shortage of psychiatrists. It's not always an easy process, she said, but families should stay vigilant and seek help whenever necessary.

Tough conversations are the first step in addressing tough realities. For that reason, Katzenstein posed a hypothetical question on Monday afternoon: what if a student shares suicidal thoughts with a fellow classmate?

"Who do you go to at school? Who is a safe person? What's going to be the next step? Are you going to get in trouble? Will that person be mad at you?" Katzenstein said.

"These are very real situations that our children and adolescents are being faced with every day," she continued.

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