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New campaign in Chesterfield aims to support teen mental health

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - Teens in Chesterfield are helping launch a new effort to support their peers with mental health problems.

Area mental health experts report an increase in concern during the pandemic, particularly with teenagers.

”I would say it’s pretty difficult because you can’t talk to your friends the same way you would before,” said Kendall Birmingham, a youth ambassador from Matoaca High School.

And at the same time, facing big moments in history.

“There’s definitely the pandemic and all of the things that are happening in the media with all of the police shootings and all of that, and I know that’s bumming a lot of people out,” said Alexis Bodrick, a 17-year-old from Manchester High School on the Youth Services Board. “There’s definitely the stress with college.”

Mental Health Experts in Chesterfield report seeing more severe symptoms – more severe depression and anxiety, more severe behavioral issues, more suicidality and more need for acute and residential psychiatric care than they have ever seen before.

“The number of children who are coming in thinking about talking about killing themselves, or who have actually made a serious attempt to kill themselves, has been something that almost keeps me up every night for the past year,” said Larissa Carpenter, program manager for child and adolescent services team.

Carpenter is part of a new team - a combined effort between the Chesterfield Youth Citizens Board and Chesterfield County Prevention Services - working to share hope and information for families dealing with some of these mental health challenges.

“What I hear over and over again is this is like nothing we’ve ever seen in our lives as professionals,” said Carpenter. “Dealing with depression and anxiety is, I think, something we’re all very accustomed to seeing in youth and especially in adolescents. But the increase in the severity of those symptoms has just been overwhelming.”

The campaign will be twofold - tips for parents on Facebook, such as how to talk to kids, where to take your child for help, and how to recognize a child who needs help. The on Instagram, the teens will reach out to their own peers.

“The most important thing about this campaign is it allows kids to have the resources to help themselves,” said Bodrick. “They already know ‘oh I’m depressed, oh I’m anxious,’ but now they have a means to help themselves and take control over what’s happening to them, and to have the tools necessary to help them throughout life.”

Follow the accounts here:

Facebook: Chesterfield County Prevention Services

Instagram: @Cfieldyouthservices

To learn more about the Chesterfield Youth Citizens Board, click here.

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