RICHMOND, Va. — Studies reveal one in five teenagers struggle with a mental health diagnosis, yet less than a third will seek help. World Teen Mental Wellness Day on March 2 highlights the need for families with teenagers to confront mental health issues head-on.
Clair Norman serves as director of marketing for the Cameron K. Gallagher (CKG) foundation in Metro Richmond. Cameron K. Gallagher was 16 years old when she died from an undiagnosed heart condition.
Her dream was to create a 5k race in her community to raise awareness for teenage depression, and her family has since continued that tradition and advocacy in her memory.
Norman, who is Cameron’s aunt, said it’s important to realize everyone has a brain, so everyone has mental health. As much as your body grows and changes, so does your brain.
The CKG Foundation has emphasized it’s important to talk with your teens about mental wellness, stress and anxiety early on so they can work on treatment now rather than waiting.
“Then teens can begin to recognize stress early and know what works for them and alleviate the signs of that stress early on,” Norman explained. “To know it’s okay somedays to not be okay. We all carry around these invisible backpacks that are heavy some days and light on others.”
Conversations used to be in dark corners or hushed behind closed doors due to the stigma surrounding mental health.
Often teens are told to identify trusted adults in their neighborhoods, and at school to go to in times of problems. Norman said parents need that same support system.
“Your own mental health is so important to dealing with your teens and taking care of them,” she stated. “If you don’t have a strong base, it’s very hard to offer strength and support in a way that’s very necessarily to the teen. I would say first and foremost take care of your own self, and beyond that knowing you have a trusted circle to share some truth with.”
Norman is encouraged by new legislation and funds toward enhancing mental health treatments and programs throughout the Commonwealth.
Her message to families is, “you’re not alone.”