How A Texas Town Hall Opened The Discussion On Mental Health

The pandemic has had a considerable impact on all of us. It has also been the catalyst for revealing many pre-existing issues which have been magnified by the isolation, loneliness, and losses associated with COVID-19. The social restrictions and isolation caused by the pandemic exacerbated mental health issues. What was meant to protect us from one problem has inadvertently caused others to surface.

Gina Gaston, an Eyewitness News anchor at KTRK-TV in Houston, recently hosted a town hall event that involved the following panelists:

 

  • State Rep. Dan Huberty of the Texas House Education Committee
  • NAMI Greater Houston board member Glenda Demas, LPC, NCC, PsyD
  • Jia Wong, MS, of the Center for Healing Arts and Science
  • Mental health advocate Khalil Piatti
  • Child behaviorist Dr. Layla Salek
  • Houston ISD director of social-emotional learning, Dr. Roberta Scott

 

The event revealed shocking data that points to serious problems with mental health issues that have escalated since the pandemic.  More and more mental health servicers practices are opening around the state, including Geode Health in Plano, which will be opening later this year.

Students Are Sadder Than Before

One stunning piece of data came from a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The survey focused on high school students. In it, a total of 44-percent of respondents indicated that they “persistently felt sad and hopeless” so severely that it prevented them from taking part in normal teenage activities. That breaks down to more than one in every three teens. The survey also found that nine percent of these teens had suicidal thoughts.

Some Mental Health Data

According to the CDC, one in every five children has a mental disorder. The interesting thing to note here is that just 20 percent of them could access the treatment they needed to manage their mental health. That boils down to one in every five children with a mental disorder receiving the help they need to get better. 

Sadly, it doesn’t look promising when you consider that a NAMI Greater Houston report from 2020 indicated the state of Texas ranks 50th out of 51 when you factor in overall access to mental health care. Fortunately, more and more mental health service practices are opening around the state, including Geode Health in Frisco, which is opening later this year.

Pre and Post-Pandemic Data From The Town Hall

So, how exactly has the pandemic played into the mental health picture? Here are some shocking facts discussed as part of the town hall meeting that compares the conditions before lockdowns and self-isolation became standards in our daily lives to how things are now.

  • Emergency Room Visits

Mental health emergency room visits between March and October 2020 jumped 24 percent for children between the ages of five and eleven. The same time frame saw a leap of 31percent for children aged 12 to 17.

  • Emotional Abuse

CDC data shows that just 14 percent of children between the ages of 14 and 17 said they had suffered emotional abuse before the pandemic. That number increased to 55 percent between 2020 and 2021.

  • Physical Abuse

Before the pandemic, children in the same age category indicated that just 5.5 percent had experienced physical abuse at home. That doubled to 11 percent between 2020 and 2021.

The Source of the Problem

Surveys say that children who have suffered mental health issues in the pandemic years say it stems from the home environment. The pandemic has placed a great deal of additional stress on parents who have had to deal with job loss due to downsizing, difficulties in adapting to life in self-isolation, and the need to become an educator for their stay-at-home children during daycare and school closures. Parents have also had problems coping with other pandemic matters, such as their own poor health or the loss of a family member due to COVID-19.

Final Thoughts

We all are aware of the initial impact that the pandemic has had on our lives. It disrupted supply chains, our households, and our lifestyles. Sadly, it has also caused damage to our mental health. 

It took a Houston television anchor to pull together a panel of experts in a town hall meeting to reveal the truth behind the recent increases in mental health disorders attributed to our lack of coping skills. Surveys provide evidence backing these findings. It also points to the need for more services with easier access to help treat those suffering from post-pandemic mental problems. Many Texans may go without getting the help they need to overcome their mental health disorders without additional assistance. 

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