Tune in here at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to see the live premiere of “#You’reNotAlone,” which follows four young people from Wisconsin as they navigate #mentalhealthchallenges.
The program is a collaboration between USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin and Milwaukee PBS. It’s an extension of the Kids in Crisis series, which over the past three years has uncovered rising #suicide rates and gaps in #mentalhealthcare in Wisconsin.
In 2017, 27% of Wisconsin high school students surveyed said at some point in the past year they’d felt so sad and hopeless that they had stopped doing some normal activities. Sixteen percent said they seriously considered #suicide. Eight percent said they had attempted it.
The 2017 youth #suicide rate in Wisconsin was the highest it has been since 1992. In both years, 38 minors died by suicide. Wisconsin’s rate was the 11th worst in the country.
As we’ve reported in the #KidsinCrisis series, there are many causes behind these tragedies. Academic, social and economic pressures weigh on students. #Socialmedia can compound #anxiety and facilitate #bullying. #Mentalhealth care can be hard to find — particularly for people in rural areas or people with public health insurance.
One in five children ages 13-18 have or will have a #mentalillness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But on average, it takes eight to 10 years after the onset of mental illness for a person to receive treatment.
One issue is the lack of providers. The U.S. has only enough psychiatrists to meet 26% of the need, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And the existing providers lack diversity and expertise to help young people from a variety of backgrounds.
A 2017 study by the University of Wisconsin found that more than half of transgender and nonbinary youths said they had negative experiences with mental health professionals based on their gender.
Students speak up
Young people around the country are demanding better care, organizing student groups, crafting suicide prevention campaigns and sharing their stories. “You’re Not Alone” features four such young people.
A collaboration between Milwaukee PBS and USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin features four young people sharing their mental health challenges. Milwaukee PBS, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
You’ll meet Alex Hart-Upendo. As a 7-year-old experiencing severe #bullying, he wrote a goodbye note. Now 12, he is running his own business, selling and donating homemade bowties, and looking forward to the years ahead.
“Where I would see myself in 10 years, is… my company being a major franchise, and seeing my product in stores worldwide, me sharing my story with other people and bringing light to others, and helping them out of the darkness,” Hart-Upendo said.
TJ Esser, at 13, told his family he was #transgender. He had a better reaction than many of his peers; his family members learned to be his best allies. Now 16, he wants others to understand the importance of supporting people as any gender they are. He wants to see an end to the higher rates of mental health challenges and suicidal thoughts his transgender peers experience.
“I think a lot of trans people, trans students especially, suffer from so much mental health because it’s not always an open place in schools to be who you are,” Esser said.
Barrett Poetker first thought about suicide in middle school, where she was being bullied and excluded. Now 19, she’s leading workshops for her fellow college students about mental wellness and studying to be a pediatric physician’s assistant.
“I really hope that I can just work with kids that have the mental health struggles that I had because I can relate to them very well and I hope that I can just help them understand that they’re not alone,” Poetker said.
By age 4, Reyna Saldana had been sexually assaulted and adopted into a new family. At age 7, she was left at a mental health facility, and the family never took her back. She went through foster homes, group homes and prison. Now 20, she is sharing her message across the state.
“I hope that we take different approaches towards kids that struggle with mental illness and #depression, and take a better look at what they’re going through,” Saldana said. “Being put away didn’t make me better. It just kind of hid me from the outside.”
If you are in an emotional crisis or supporting someone in crisis, consider reaching out to a helpline:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
National Crisis Text Line: Text “Hopeline” to 741-741
Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten and Haley BeMiller, Karl Ebert and Andrew Mollica of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin contributed to this report.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle