During a meeting of the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition last week Kylena France, a mental health therapist for Within Reach in Washington Court House, discussed the significant increase in mental health issues among adolescents that has taken place nationally and locally.
“I went from a caseload of 1 percent of my caseload being adolescents to probably 95 percent of my caseload being adolescents,” said France.
France said some of the increase may be attributed to the pandemic, but that less stigmatization surrounding mental health disorders may also explain the increase. “It’s not just run-of-the-mill anxiety that they are getting because of the pandemic, and I don’t know if it’s more accepted and that’s why we’re seeing the increase in treatment of children and adolescents, but maybe that is a big piece of it because people are realizing that they’re not just kids being kids, and that they have some serious issues that we need to address,” she said.
France said there is a shortage of psychiatric care in the local area. “It is few and far between for people who can prescribe those meds here, so there is lots of traveling to Cincinnati and Columbus which is a deterrent to a lot of people because of transportation,” she said.
France recently closed her office in Hillsboro but still sees patients in Washington Court House with limited scheduling. “It is unfortunate for my people who come to see me in Washington Court House who have transportation issues,” she said. “If you practice you know even to get a referral to somebody who deals with children or adolescents is nil.”
France said online bullying is something that compounds mental health problems among youth. “Some children are bullied at home when it used to be just at school and over when school ended, but now it’s everywhere,” she said.
France cited information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that 18.8 percent of adolescents in the U.S. aged 12 to 17 in 2018 through 2019 seriously considered attempting suicide. “Even just kids who report that they have feelings of suicide is obviously a huge issue,” she said.
According to France, there is a need for more mental health services for adolescents in the local area.
“When my business partner and I originally started Within Reach, that thought was that nobody should ever have to wait for an assessment because nobody calls you when they are OK; they call you when they are in crisis, but the calls kept coming and there were only two of us,” said France. “As a therapist, it makes me sad.”
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.