Dayton Children’s campaign addresses mental health crises caused by a pandemic

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Dayton Children’s Hospital is drawing attention to the mental health crisis children are facing as the hospital celebrates a year since the launch of its On Our Sleeves campaign.

On Our Sleeves was founded at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 2018 to provide resources to families on mental health issues. Dayton Children’s brought the program to the Miami Valley in 2021.

“To try to break down the stigma of speaking up about mental health issues,” said Emily Weitz, community behavioral health work coordinator for Dayton Children’s On Our Sleeves.

A CDC poll released in April found that one in three high school students suffered from poor mental health at some point during the pandemic.

Weitz said while the pandemic has drawn more attention to children’s mental health issues, families are having to wait months before being able to access a mental health provider.

“A lot of parents just get frustrated trying to get places on long waiting lists,” Weitz said.

Weitz said older providers may have retired during the pandemic, the virtual model for telemedicine is a barrier, and the pandemic has created a greater need for mental health services.

However, when a child is struggling, Weitz says there are things parents can do to help their child through a difficult time. That’s why On Our Sleeves was created.

“There are a few things you can do at home to relieve that stress and even help before it gets to the point where your child needs to seek professional help,” Weitz said.

Weitz said the best way for parents to start conversations about mental health is to start small.

“What did you do at break, what did you have for lunch, so start with those little things and just let them talk so that the more they open up, they take themselves out of the reaction and leave more open conversations,” said Weitz.

On Our Sleeves offers conversation starters, a weekly newsletter, blogs and other tools to help parents have these conversations. To connect to On Our Sleeves resources, click here.

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