Amid growing concern over teen mental health, Seattle-area youths create their own resource –

Amid growing concern over teen mental health, Seattle-area youths create their own resource –

Experts are advocating for more resources from governments, schools and other institutions to address a mental health crisis among children. In the meantime, a group of young people have created their own resource: a multicultural mental health guide for teens.

In a collaboration between The Seattle Times Education Lab and King County Public Health’s Social Media Ambassadors and Soar youth programs, the guide isn’t just a list of numbers to call. It explains exactly what would happen if someone reaches out.

The guide is particularly handy for teens because, in Washington, people 13 years old and older can access mental health services and treatments without the consent of a parent or guardian, according to the Times.

Demystifying the outreach process was central to the project, said high school senior Julie Malit, 17.

“First, addressing your mental health is hard, and then second, actually navigating — I know that this organization exists, what am I going to do with it? What am I supposed to say? What are they going to say back?” Malit said. “It’s more anxiety on top of, maybe, the anxiety that you’re already trying to address. So those things kind of just add on to each other and make it really hard for a lot of us to seek out the help that we need.”

Malit, who enjoys robotics and listening to Taylor Swift, profiled the Asian Counseling and Referral Service. As a Filipino immigrant who also plans to be the first in her family to attend college in the U.S., her own mental health was on the backburner.

“You don’t get a notification that’s like, ‘Hey, you should go to bed right now.’ Nobody tells you, ‘Hey, you should start [addressing your mental health] now, so it doesn’t get worse,’ ” Malit said. “I didn’t realize until we were there and doing it and talking about it like we really needed this [guide] and I needed this.”

The guide comes during a time when local and national concern is growing about youth mental health experiences during the pandemic.

This month, the U.S. surgeon general issued a rare advisory about warning about a youth mental health crisis. At the same time, the Washington State Health Department shared new data indicating that more kids continue to show up in the state’s emergency rooms due to mental health crises, including suicidal ideation, symptoms related to eating disorders, and severe anxiety and depression.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, chief science officer for the health department. “It doesn’t count all the kids at home who may have quite severe symptoms and really are going through a really stressful, difficult time with their emotional and behavioral health. And I think what it points to is that we really need more to help these kids.”

Kwan-Gett encouraged families to keep an eye out for dramatic changes in mood or energy and look for other signs their children may be struggling.

Among her friend group, 23-year-old Samira Farah noticed some of her friends would brush off their problems as just bad days.

“When it comes to speaking on our …….


Mental health