WQED, local groups to host youth mental health virtual event | #socialmedia | #children

In addition to all the other problems it has caused, the covid-19 pandemic has given rise to mental health issues for 11- to 17-year-olds.

The disruption of in-person classes, as well extracurricular and social activities, has left a significant number of young people depressed and worried about their futures.

On Wednesday at 5 p.m., the public media initiative to address critical health issues is collaborating with WQED-TV, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and several Pittsburgh area school districts to provide a live virtual discussion about the state of youth mental health.

The event, “Healthy Connections, Teens, Parents, Educators and Mental Health,” will feature local Pittsburgh students and experts including Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America, offering guidance to parents and educators in recognizing signs of mental illness in students.

“We have to focus on kids, and we’ve got to focus on identifying and addressing the issues the kids have as early as we can,” Gionfriddo said. “What we’re seeing in greater numbers among children, 11- to 17-year-olds, than any other population group is depression, anxiety, psychosis, self-harm thinking and even suicidal thinking as a result of the pandemic.

“They’re dealing with a lot these days, and they’re dealing with more than any other age group at the moment.”

More teens are now finding help in an unexpected way through social media and similar platforms and virtual therapy has become a lifeline, according to Gionfriddo.

Gionfriddo’s son, Tim, lived with schizophrenia from childhood on. He died six weeks ago at the age of 35.

He was featured in WQED’s Emmy winning documentary “Before Stage Four: Confronting Early Psychosis.” The title said Gionfriddo comes from people arguing that “mental health is the only one of the chronic diseases we wait until stage four to treat, and then often inappropriately through incarceration.”

Excerpts of the documentary will be incorporated into tomorrow night’s program.

Local panelists taking part in the discussion include Michelle Decker, Young Adult Outreach & Education specialist, NAMI Keystone, PA; Nicholas Emeigh, director of Outreach & Development, NAMI Bucks County, PA; LemLem Gamble, a student at Washington and Jefferson College; and Elle Snyder, a student at Upper Saint Clair High School.

To take part in the virtual event, go to www.wellbeings.org/wqed

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or pguggenheimer@triblive.com.

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