Mental Health Awareness Month: Changing the Mental Health Landscape in Georgia

By Lara Muster, Clinical Intern | April 25, 2023

“If I had learned about my mental health earlier on—been taught about my condition in school the way I was taught about other subjects — my journey could have looked very different.”

-Selena Gomez

Singer and Songwriter, Selena Gomez, bravely shares her struggle with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder throughout her time in the spotlight in an effort to increase awareness and advocacy of mental health. Mental illness does not discriminate, and its impact is heavy, damaging, and often life-threatening. Mental health holds a powerful influence over the lives of our children, and it is time that we, as a community, stop hiding from it. Selena Gomez’s openness and vulnerability in sharing her story has been an inspiration and motivation for young girls who struggle with their own mental illness.

As we approach the month of May, mental health awareness month, it is essential that we address the continued need for advocacy and increased mental health awareness in the state of Georgia, specifically for children, teenagers, and adolescents. For four consecutive years Georgia has ranked 38th in the nation in child and family well-being. Voices for Georgia’s Children reports “41% of Georgia’s children aged 3 to 17 struggle to or are not able to access needed mental health treatment and counseling.” Considerable mental health needs for our children in Georgia continue to go unnoticed and unmet, and through advocating for support and awareness of our children, we have the power to change the course of a child’s development and lead them to more positive life outcomes. Unfortunately, society remains in a state of normalizing the habit of hiding our problems and instead teaching children to present with apparent competence through their storm of emotions and dysregulation.

In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), we educate children and adolescents at Hillside that it is okay to notice and experience our emotions. It is normal to have them and healthy to talk about them. Children and teenagers at Hillside learn to use the “Wave Skill”. “Riding the wave” is about allowing your emotions to come and go without the use of ineffective behaviors and without trying to hold on to them or push them away. It involves observing and coping with your experiences and emotions without trying to change them. Attempting to fight powerful emotions, such as sadness and anger, only prolongs the experience and delays the acceptance of them.  Allowing each emotion to have its natural end helps return you to baseline. At Hillside, we teach children and teenagers to safely cope with their emotions instead of pushing them away.

1 in 5 children have mental illness that could benefit from treatment. 1 in 8 teens suffers from depression. There is a great need for continued awareness of youth mental health. During the month of May, Hillside continues to advocate for the health and well-being of children and adolescents in Georgia. It is essential that we be the voice for children who do not have that voice for themselves. Through evidence-based treatment and community advocacy, Hillside will continue to break down the structural and attitudinal barriers that keep our children from reaching their lives worth living.

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