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Kennedy Krieger Institute Advocates for youth mental health awareness

Kennedy Krieger Institute Advocates for youth mental health awareness
Kennedy Krieger Institute Advocates for youth mental health awareness 02:12

BALTIMORE — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and now more than ever, the spotlight is on the importance of addressing mental health issues, particularly among children and young adults.

The Kennedy Krieger Institute is at the forefront of this cause, advocating for greater recognition and utilization of community resources.

"Pretty much anyone that you speak to has someone that they know, even their own family, friends, coworkers, that has a mental health issue. And it's something that we don't have to be ashamed to talk about anymore. We really want to bring it to the forefront of how to solve the problem," stated Cynthia Cavanaugh, Co-President of the Women's Initiative Network.

The Kennedy Krieger Institute, is a leading care provider for children and young adults with disabilities.  It also provides vital mental health services. However, for the dedicated professionals working in the field, the stigma around mental health remains a significant challenge.

"Especially in teenagers, they do not want to be labeled as crazy or abnormal. Mental health is as physical as breaking a bone. It comes from the brain. So it is so important to de-stigmatize mental health difficulties," said Dr. Carmen López-Arvizu, a psychiatrist from the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Dr. López-Arvizu is challenging parents to start conversations about mental health at home. "And ask your child if they are having difficulties they might not be able to tell you, 'I'm depressed and anxious,' but they might be able to tell you, 'I feel different, or I have difficulty doing what I used to do well before.' So it is important to establish a conversation and monitor their daily life," she advised.

In order to meet the increased demand for mental health services and better serve the community, the Kennedy Krieger Institute hosts numerous fundraisers throughout the year, with the proceeds directly benefitting the youth and their families. The institute is also launching a fellowship aimed at training more clinicians.

"Helping a child can truly change the course of their life. And I think in doing this, we can help so many children in our area and decrease suicide attempts as well," said Cavanaugh.

As the CDC reports an increase in depression and suicide rates among teens, treatment approaches are focusing on psychotherapy, which analyzes emotions and behaviors. Dr. López-Arvizu stressed the importance of patience during treatment, likening recovery to a marathon rather than a sprint. "Mental health treatment is not immediate, it is a rehabilitation process in a way - we do take time to get better," she said.

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