Editor’s Note: The following article is a case study pertaining to the lack of mental health opportunities in Southern Utah’s largest city, St. George. The following Article describes a lacking mental health assistance that reflects a much more substantial issue that permeates throughout, not only the state of Utah but the entirety of the nation as well. After reading this article, do your own research on your local area. You may be surprised (or disgusted) by what you find (or don’t).
Additional Writing Credits - Cristo Rogers
When they need it most, far too many St. George teens with mental health issues fail to receive the critical psychiatric help they so desperately require.
The American Psychological Association says less than half of adolescents and young children nationwide get the treatment, services, and support they need. It may be even worse than that in St. George, UT, considering data from the US Census Bureau (2016) - less than 10% of teens in the area get the care they need (approx. 400 out of a possible 4,000).
Essentially, this means that upwards of 90% of St. George’s most vulnerable adolescent population, get little or no professional mental or emotional health attention at all.
Limited Local Care Options
The teens that do get help go to Northern Utah or are lucky enough to be placed on the overwhelmed caseloads of the lone behavioral health center or the handful of therapy associates in the area. To date, St. George doesn't - nor Southern Utah, for that matter - have an inpatient mental health facility for its mentally and emotionally troubled children.
The reasons for these lack of available resources to local kids include a severe lacking of local services, parents' inability afford services as mentioned above (no insurance coverage), and logistical factors such as families rendered unable to travel to northern Utah programs.
And, to be quite frank, school counselors don’t cut it either. These working stiffs are more concerned about the academic side of 'what’s going on with the area’s kids,' rather than taking an interest in their state of mental health or emotional stability - which is a whole other problem in and of itself.
Root Problems Overlooked
The resulting problems of mental and emotional illness in St. George is that adolescent substance abuse, and other criminal behaviors, garner more attention than the root problems, or underlying issues, themselves, and therefore, often fail to receive treatment. To further illustrate this point, local practitioners point to the fact that behavioral-modification specialists (troubled teen programs, such as boot camps) in these areas for adults and children, alike, have nearly doubled within the last several years.
As of September 2017, Approximately, 4,000 of St. George and surrounding area's teens are in desperate need of professional, mental and emotional help… And they require said urgent aid, today.
Right Now, Right Here
In short, we cannot wait idly by for the inept state government, nor the even less capable, federal government, to come up with a solution regarding our rampant, teenage mental health issues.
The truth is, these are our kids. Ultimately, we either take care of this crisis head-on, when kids can most efficiently and successfully be treated, or more than pay for it down the road in the form of increasing crime rates and the ludicrously, ever-increasing cost of building more prisons or institutional lockups.
How do we solve our youth's suffering? We start by asking ourselves two questions... "When is enough, enough?" and "Where will our emotionally and mentally suffering children find the solace they have been excruciatingly searching for?"
For those whose answer isn't, 'right now and right here!' then it's time to switch sides from 'being the problem' to 'becoming the solution' that our nation's youth, ignored and chewed up by the system, scream in desperation, that they need but have yet to receive.
Want Change? Become Active!
Despite what you may have been led to believe, we, the working class citizens of Utah, and furthermore, the United States, are in charge. It is our voice that steers our elected officials in their policy and political conduct, and it is our voice that they must listen to lest they fail to get re-elected for another 6-year term.
Where do we start? Well, we start with our elected officials, both state, and the US. Senators, as well as our congressman and congresswomen. We need to take it upon ourselves to call upon our local and state officials and demand that our government makes mental health a priority - right up there with police funding and building roads. While this may sound like a futile excuse for Americans to exercise their first amendment by annoying elected, civil servants, to some, it is exponentially much more than that. Don't take this author's word for it though, just take a look at our nation's history.
As history has proven in American culture, with enough people's passionate cries and vehement demands for change, it's not a matter of IF we can right the wrongs of our great nation's short-comings and civil injustices, it's a matter of WHEN. Just like the women's suffrage for voting rights in the early 20th century, the black community's demand for equality during the civil rights movement of the mid-20th-century, and the fight for equal marriage rights just a few years ago, WE, the proud peoples of this great nation CAN make a change.
Hey, Utah congresswoman Mia Love and Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee! Want to make Utah, and ultimately, America a better and safer place to live? Then stop ignoring our mentally-ill teens' desperate pleas for help! Instead, listen to their pain and do your damned best to help support them in any way you possibly can. After all, all of our future depends on it.