Mental Health Crisis in Kids and Teens — How Parents Can Help

Posted on May 4, 2023

Kaiser Permanente Northwest

PORTLAND, Ore., May 4, 2023: As the pandemic reaches its 3-year point, kids and teens are struggling with record high rates of mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Kaiser Permanente Northwest physicians offer ways parents can support their children.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 42 percent of U.S. high schoolers experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2021, and 22 percent considered attempting suicide. Teen girls, as well as lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, are struggling the most, but boys and teens in every racial and ethnic group also reported worsening symptoms.

Dr. Mary Loeb, physician with Kaiser Permanente Northwest, explains what parents should be aware of and shares steps we can take to help support kids’ mental health and well-being.

“We’ve seen a big increase in children with mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, since the pandemic began, and it’s deeply concerning,” said Dr. Loeb. “But know there are plenty of positive things we can do as parents to support our kids. For example, just talk to your kids and ask them how they’re feeling and listen to what they’re saying. You don’t have to offer advice, just listen so they feel heard and validated. Often just helping them put their feelings into words can lessen their negative emotions.”

How parents can help their child build resilience by focusing on these factors:

  • Providing opportunities to build social connections with family, friends, and groups, such as sports teams, clubs, or church groups.
  • Encouraging kids to maintain physical and mental wellness with mindfulness and exercise.
  • Teaching them to remain positive by not fixating on negative things and being hopeful about future plans.
  • Helping kids develop a sense of purpose by setting goals and taking time to help others and themselves.


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