My Turn: No summer break for mental health

STAFF FILE PHOTO

STAFF FILE PHOTO STAFF FILE PHOTO

By KHADENE HARRY-STOBY

Published: 06-10-2024 6:23 PM

 

As summer break arrives, the joyous anticipation of freedom from school routines fills the hearts of adolescents. Yet, amid the excitement lies a poignant reality: Mental health concerns do not take a hiatus when classrooms empty and textbooks gather dust. It is imperative to acknowledge and address the ongoing mental health challenges that adolescents face, even during the carefree days of summer.

Some teens may relish hours of independence, while others may struggle with a lack of routine and ability to socialize. The adolescent years are a pivotal time of transition, marked by physical, emotional, and social transformations. While summer vacation may signify a break from academic pressures, it can also introduce new stressors. The absence of structured routines, social isolation, familial tensions, and increased expectations can exacerbate mental health issues or instigate new ones.

Busy parents and caregivers may want to find a moment that’s good for both them and the young person in their care to ask about their break expectations and to really listen to any concerns and how they might want to address them.

Budgets may dictate what family activities are on the summer calendar, but some are free — movie night at home, making dinner together, checking out the local library for summer programs, evening walks, starting a small garden.

What’s important is finding space and time in which a young person can feel comfortable to share how they are feeling emotionally. Listening without judgment about how a young person is feeling throughout the year can help an adolescent open up about what may be distressing them.

Are they feeling lonely, bored, excluded? Are these negative feelings prolonged and in need of therapeutic treatment or can they be addressed by adding some structure — exercise, volunteering, reading — into the day?

Signs a young person may be experiencing a mental health challenge and need professional support include ongoing changes in sleeping, eating and other everyday routines; anxiety that interferes with daily function; expressing hopelessness, increased anger or irritability; substance use; or loss of interest in what they used to enjoy.

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Mental health challenges are treatable. There is a range of both short-and long-term therapies, including counseling, medication and sometimes a combination of both, available to help address and manage them.

Inpatient treatment is available as well to help youth in acute crisis stabilize and learn skills to manage their mental health as they move forward.

As we embark on the summer months, let us remember that adolescent mental health knows no vacation. By embracing MiraVista as a steadfast ally, we reaffirm our commitment to nurturing the holistic well-being of adolescents year-round. Together, let us create a future where every adolescent feels supported, empowered, and resilient in the face of life’s challenges.

Khadene Harry-Stoby is adolescent unit nurse manager for MiraVista Behavioral Health Center in Holyoke. The psychiatric hospital offers inpatient treatment for adults and adolescents in crisis, and outpatient substance use recovery services.