His Mind Matters
Kole was bullied in middle school which led to him struggling with ADHD, depression and anxiety. To minimize the harassment he was experiencing, he was careful about what he revealed about himself and to whom. “It hurts to have to put on a show and a facade for everyone,” he said. “It’s sad you have to shuffle your way into those conversations. It’s so scary to be yourself.”
Now in high school, he has been able to connect with a therapist and found creative outlets to express himself.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Kole has experienced challenges. There was a delay in his therapy, and he was isolated at home. All the things that he loved doing, musical theater and being with friends were paused. He feels a little like he’s been paused, too. “I have felt very stunted in my creative flow because of COVID.”
“This is an especially vulnerable time for all of us, especially our children,” said Dr. Emad Salman, chief physician executive and vice president of operations at Golisano Children’s Services. “Prior to COVID, we had a crisis with mental health. There were long lines for people waiting to get access to mental health providers. There were increasing suicide rates. Now we’ve added on top of it another epidemic with COVID and a complete change in their whole lifestyle.”
Kole is just one of the thousands of Southwest Florida children who are struggling with mental health illnesses, many as a result of the isolation imposed upon our children due to the global pandemic. Because of the generosity of our community and collaborations that have formed, Kids’ Minds Matter has made great strides in enhancing and expanding mental health resources since 2017. Pediatric mental health visits have increased 1,000%, 29 additional providers have been added and hundreds of frontline workers have received mental health first aid training.
But as our community grows, so too does the need for support. Currently, Golisano Children’s Hospital’s outpatient behavioral health center has 600 children on its waiting list. And that’s not counting the thousands more who we are not reaching, including those in underserved communities.
As a society, we have a responsibility to become more educated, to break the stigmas, and to effect real change. Will you join us in becoming a mental health advocate for our children?