Our Children Need Our Help

By Janet Siry, LCSW

“Take care you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you,
in heaven their angels continue to see the face of my Father in heaven. Mat 18:10


This Is No Time For Ambivalence
Each day we are faced with new and disturbing images in the media about the state of the world. Many factors contribute to an increase in mental health disorders among our children. Contrary to what some expected as the pandemic begins to subside, it seems our distress is increasing rather than abating. According to a recent report by the US Surgeon General, our children’s mental health is being affected negatively by multiple factors. All of us need to work together to face this crisis. Our ambivalence is detrimental to improving the lives of our children and their families. Parents, teachers, administrators, clergy, health care professionals, legislators and caregivers need to work together to change how children’s mental health challenges can be ascertained and provide appropriate care in dealing with these challenges.

Disturbing Statistics
During the pandemic era, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 20% of children have an identified mental illness while 40% will meet the criteria before the age of 18. Anxiety is prevalent in 9.4% of children. Depression and suicide are a risk for children ages 12-17. In 2019, one in five high school students seriously considered attempting suicide. These statistics are alarming!

Childhood Adversities Have Long-Lasting Effects
Because of inequities in our society, some people, especially indigenous people, immigrants and people of color, do not receive appropriate housing, health care, access to quality education, sufficient wages to support a family or adequate mental health treatment. Early adversity in childhood can impact children and families for a lifetime if these challenges are ignored. 

Symptoms Must Not Be Ignored
There are certain behaviors that we can observe that indicate a problem that might need further intervention. Feelings of sadness lasting more than two weeks can indicate anxiety or depression. Intense fear that has increased and inhibits daily activities may be indicators of a situation that may require evaluation. Drastic changes in behaviors and personality may impact children experiencing traumatic stress in their lives. Use of alcohol and drugs in adolescents can be indicators of toxic stress experienced in families that can inhibit the ability to develop healthy coping mechanisms or minimize adequate emotional support from adults.

The Critical Role of Adults
As caring adults, we can facilitate necessary changes to improve these circumstances. Communities, schools and churches can provide educational programs to help families understand what services are available when they are overwhelmed and need help. We can promote social and emotional competency and resiliency to create a positive and safe environment for families. We can encourage kindness and responsible decision making among ourselves and others. We can help others access mental and physical health support systems. We can teach families mindfulness and relaxation techniques to promote self-care.  

The Ingredients of Resilience
We can build our own resiliency by learning to adapt to change, being able to identify and process our emotions, and forgiving ourselves for any perceived inadequacies. Find joy in the simple things and have gratitude for the grace our Lord has given us.

 U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Service, U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Youth Mental Health Crisis Further Exposed by COVID-19 Pandemic, Dec. 7, 2021. 




Janet Siry, LCSW, received her Master’s in Social Work degree at Fordham University and a BS in Elementary Education from Valparaiso University. She has worked as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for years and prior to this, she was a preschool teacher. As a school based social worker for four years, Mrs. Siry has counseled children, adolescents, families and adults and has facilitated group therapy sessions. She has a private practice in Setauket, NY. Mrs. Siry is a member of The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and was awarded Woman of the Year in Religion in 2005.

Mrs. Siry counsels children, teens, adults, couples and families at the LCC site in Patchogue.