Addressing Youth Mental Health Challenges at Governor’s Summit

July 05, 2023

On Thursday, June 15, 2023, a team of Ohel mental health professionals participated in New York’s Inaugural Youth Mental Health Summit. “The event was monumental, as it was the first-ever New York State summit on youth mental health,” said Dr. Carly Namdar, educational psychologist and Resilience Programs coordinator at Ohel Kestenbaum Family International Children’s Services. “Ohel’s team was honored to participate and welcomed learning about the Governor’s findings from her statewide youth listening tour with recommendations on navigating the youth mental health crisis.”

“This is New York’s first-ever youth mental health summit happening right before our very eyes,” said New York State Governor Kathy Hochul. “I’m so proud to be gathering over 1,000 people, people who deeply care about the plight of our young people, bringing together the brightest minds in the world — mental health experts, educators, parents, policymakers, members of law enforcement, authors, and advocates and, of course, our young people.”

“Ohel has programs for youth ranging in all ages from 0-21,” said Tzivy Reiter, LCSW, director of Children’s & National Trauma Services at Ohel. “We believe in prevention and, as such, our mental health outpatient counseling centers provide specialized programs for early childhood mental health, providing attachment-based treatment.

“It is never too early to do prevention work for youth. We literally treat children in the womb, being one of the few agencies in New York City that are credentialed in perinatal child-parent psychotherapy, which is a specialized treatment for pregnant women who have experienced trauma that helps them attach to their unborn babies — laying the foundation for a more positive trajectory of mental health for that child’s entire life.”

Governor Hochul stressed her commitment to addressing youth mental health. “If you look at the statistics, they’re absolutely staggering, and it’s just a reminder that we’re failing our children,” said Governor Hochul, who shared recently released statistics demonstrating the current mental health crisis our youth face. “The statistics are chilling. We can’t ignore them. They hit us right in the face, but they are facts we have to come to terms with.” Governor Hochul also mentioned that 42% of all high school students feel persistently sad or hopeless, and 22% have actually considered that the alternative to life is better.

According to CDC data, suicide rates among the 10–24 age group reached a 20-year-high in 2021. The suicide rate among people aged 10–24 increased by 62% from 2007 through 2021. The rates of increase by age group are equally alarming:

  • For people aged 10–14, the suicide rate has tripled since 2007
  • For people aged 15–19, the suicide rate increased by 57% from 2009
  • For people aged 20–24, the suicide rate increased by 63% from 2001, with a greater pace of increase from 2012 through 2021

“If a parent has concerns about their child’s mental health, it’s best to consult with their pediatrician and/or a mental health professional to see if your child needs further support,” said Dr. Namdar. “The following signs may suggest an underlying emotional challenge that your child may be experiencing: changes in mood or lingering sadness or irritability; changes in sleep patterns or appetite; changes in their social activities — social avoidance, withdrawal, or isolation; decline in their academic grades and performance; somatic complaints with no medical basis; escalating worries or fears; changes in behavior; or substance use.

“Every child is unique, and the signs can vary from individual to individual. Parents should trust their instincts, as they know their child best, and be persistent about getting help if there are changes in their child’s functioning or if something doesn’t feel right to them. Seeking help is a sign of strength and goes a long way to validate whatever the child may be experiencing, creating a safe and supportive non-judgmental space for the family.”

“Ohel believes in taking both a proactive and reactive approach to addressing youth mental health challenges — responding with innovative treatment approaches and also looking to prevent mental health issues from developing by building resilience in children,” said Reiter. “In addition to the mental health treatment in our outpatient counseling centers, we have many prevention programs and services, primarily provided in school-based settings. We created several curricula designed to build resilience and teach social-emotional skills, and we provide a tremendous amount of assistance for the caregivers of youth — parents and teachers — so they are empowered to support youth.”

“The era of ignoring and under-investing in mental health is over,” said Governor Hochul. “We learned we can do so much more.”

Ohel offers counseling for young people and their parents, ranging from early childhood through young adulthood. Learn More 

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