Almost three years to the week that the nationwide pandemic lockdown went into effect, the San Antonio Report will host an in-person, lunchtime panel discussion titled, “Crisis and Opportunity: Youth Mental Health in Bexar County” at Clarity Child Guidance Center.
In 2021, the country’s leading coalition of pediatric health experts issued a warning that the youth mental health crisis had become a “national emergency” — while also acknowledging that rates of childhood mental health concerns had been rising for the past decade.
Data collected that same year was released Feb. 13 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that teen girls are experiencing record-high levels of violence, sadness, and suicide risk, while LGBTQ teens continue to face extremely high levels of violence and mental health challenges.
Parents are worried. According to a Pew Research Center study released last month, fully 40% of parents with children under 18 said they were “extremely” or “very worried” that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression at some point, beating out fears that their kids may be bullied, kidnapped or abducted or abuse drugs and alcohol.
On Tuesday, March 7, we will hear from a panel of experts, therapists and family members about the ongoing mental health crisis facing local youth, as well as new opportunities to help.
Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick, who covers social issues for the Report, will moderate the discussion. Panelists include:
- Jessica Knudsen, CEO of Clarity Child Guidance Center;
- Delores Haines, clinical director for Children’s Behavioral Health at The Center for Health Care Services;
- Roxanna Perez, lead licensed counselor for Communities in Schools San Antonio;
- Diana Lujan, school-based program manager at Jewish Family Service of San Antonio; and
- Anna Hurd, a high school student and member of the San Antonio Youth Commission.
Tickets for the lunch and panel are available online to anyone interested in attending in person, and the event will be live-streamed on YouTube.
Youth mental health in San Antonio
Nearly half of the teenagers surveyed in spring 2022 by the San Antonio Youth Commission and Project Worth Teen Ambassadors reported feeling “helpless, hopeless, numb, or like nothing matters.”
Over the past three years, youth mental health care facilities across the country, including those in San Antonio, have seen a dramatic rise in demand for in- and out-patient services, said Knudsen, CEO of Clarity Child Guidance Center.
“If you think about a kid who was in kindergarten in 2020, we plucked them out of kindergarten, sent them home for two years, and then plopped them back down in second grade — and now we’re acting shocked that he’s not acting like a second-grader,” Knudsen said. “We have not modified — we being adults — our expectations.”
Therapists at Clarity have seen a “huge spike” in social anxiety, she said. “For a lot of these kids, they haven’t had in-person interaction for so long, it’s like they’ve kind of lost the ability.”
As experts, educators and parents continue to sound the alarm, the crisis has forced at least the start of a reckoning. Young people themselves seem to feel far less stigma around acknowledging their mental health struggles, while many places, including Bexar County and the City of San Antonio, have invested record amounts of money to expand mental health care access.
Submit your questions
Before our event, we’d like to hear from you — parents, guardians, educators, community members: What are some of the barriers you’ve seen or experienced helping young people access mental health services? What kinds of services most helped? Where should the city and county invest for the greatest impact?
What questions would you like our panel to answer?
Please send your questions and comments to email@example.com by March 3 for consideration for the live event. Then be sure to attend or watch the panel live on March 7 and share it with anyone who might be interested.