ABC13 town hall to focus on Texas' teen mental health crisis

Gina Gaston Image
Friday, May 6, 2022
Action 13: Our Teens & Mental Health town hall
Join ABC13's Gina Gaston for a town hall exploring COVID-19's impacts on our teens and their mental health.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a counselor from anywhere in the United States.

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, our teenagers are now facing a new crisis: rising mental health problems.

The Centers for Disease Control reported in a recent survey that 44% of high school students said they persistently felt sad and hopeless to such an extent that it kept them from participating in normal teenage activities. That's more than one in every three teens.

Nine percent even considered suicide.

Eyewitness News anchor Gina Gaston gathered experts for a town hall Thursday night, highlighting how the pandemic has only compounded the existing mental health crisis faced by Texas teens, and to connect you with resources that could save lives.

Panelists for Thursday's town hall included:

  • State Rep. Dan Huberty, Texas House Education Committee
  • Glenda Demas, LPC, NCC, PsyD. NAMI Greater Houston board member
  • Jia Wong, MS, The Center for Healing Arts and Science
  • Khalil Piatti, teen mental health advocate
  • Dr. Layla Salek, child behaviorist
  • Dr. Roberta Scott, Houston ISD director of social emotional learning

CDC data shows one in every five children has a mental disorder, but only 20 percent of them were able to get mental health care.

A 2020 NAMI Greater Houston report shows Texas ranks 50th out of 51 for overall access to mental health care.

From March to October 2020, mental health emergency room visits increased 24% for younger children ages 5-11, and was even worse for children ages 12-17, whose ER visits went up 31%.

Much of the mental health pain children are experiencing is because of what has been unfolding at home, as parents struggle with job loss, isolation, having to manage their child's education, and sometimes their own poor health or the death of a loved one due to COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, CDC data showed only 14% of children ages 14-17 said they were emotionally abused. From 2020-2021, that number soared to 55% of children surveyed.

Another 11% of children said they experienced physical abuse at home during the same period, up from 5.5% before the pandemic.

Viewers can watch the town hall anywhere they stream Eyewitness News, including on Roku and Fire TV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. The Texas Health and Human Services COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line can be reached at 833-986-1919.