The Hidden Crisis of Youth Mental Health in Massachusetts


May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to reflect on the challenges faced by a vulnerable portion of the population: young people and adolescents in terms of emotional well-being.

This week, in particular, marks Teen Mental Health Week, an opportunity to highlight the importance of openly discussing this issue with our youth.

Dr. Gladys Pachas, a prominent professional in the field of mental health at Massachusetts General Hospital, shared her experience and knowledge on such a crucial topic as mental health during the Mundo Boston Café Hour.

With a solid academic background, Dr. Pachas has dedicated her career to researching and developing innovative behavioral treatments for smoking cessation and relapse prevention in individuals with and without serious mental illnesses.

Currently, Dr. Pachas is involved in Phase II clinical trials of novel pharmacological agents for smoking cessation and relapse prevention.

Experience and Perspectives on the Importance of Addressing Mental Health in Our Latino Community

Dr. Gladys Pachas provided valuable insight into why it is crucial to address mental health with young people.

She points out that it is essential to overcome the taboo surrounding mental health and move away from the stigma associated with seeking professional help.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the growing prevalence of mental health problems among teenagers, becoming a public health issue.

According to Dr. Pachas, one of the surveys applied in schools on risky behaviors in youth revealed that: in 2021, for example, one in five students is using alcohol, one in six vapes, and one in seven smokes marijuana, underscoring the urgency of addressing this issue openly and comprehensively.

Empowering Youth: Exploring the Impact and Reach of the iDECIDE Program in Massachusetts

One of the highlighted programs during the interview was iDECIDE (Drug Education Curriculum: Intervention, Diversion, and Empowerment).

An initiative that offers a drug education program that provides behavioral support and psychoeducation to middle and high school students.

iDECIDE focuses on connecting young people with mentors in school, providing them with a safe space to talk about their concerns and receive support, empowering students to make healthy decisions.

The program is available in more than 350 schools in Massachusetts, providing an invaluable resource for students, parents, and educators.

The objective of iDECIDE is to provide students with:

  • A scientific understanding of the impact of substance use and addiction on the adolescent brain and body.
  • An understanding of the common tactics used by the industry to target young people.
  • The ability to identify and respond to personal impulses to use alcohol and other drugs.
  • A sense of empowerment and a plan to make healthy decisions in line with their core values and future goals.

To learn more about iDECIDE and its implementation in Massachusetts schools, visit their official website: https://www.idecidemyfuture.org/

Addressing Your Child’s Mental Health at School

Dr. Pachas emphasized the importance of parents getting involved and communicating with schools if they have concerns about their child’s mental health.

She encouraged parents to ask about programs and seek support for their children at a time when youth mental health is more important than ever.

Some points to consider:

  1. Establish Open Communication:

Maintain open and regular lines of communication with teachers, school counselors, and administrators.

Let them know you are interested in your child’s emotional well-being and are willing to collaborate.

  1. Know the Available Resources:

Research what services and support resources are available at school to address students’ mental health. This may include counseling services, early intervention programs, and support groups.

  1. Participate in School Meetings and Events:

Attend parent-teacher meetings, workshops, and events to familiarize yourself with your child’s school environment.

  1. Share Your Concerns Specifically:

When you have concerns about your child’s mental health, share them with the school clearly and specifically.

Provide concrete examples of behaviors or changes you have observed in your child.

  1. Collaborate on Developing a Support Plan:

Work together with school professionals to develop an individualized support plan for your child, if necessary.

This may include strategies to address their emotional, academic, and social needs, as well as guidelines for ongoing communication between the school and family.

This interview offers a revealing insight into the challenges faced by teenagers in terms of mental health and highlights the importance of addressing this issue proactively and compassionately.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see the full interview with Dr. Gladys Pachas in the following link.

Talking about mental health is the first step toward wellness and recovery.

Visit our blog and get more resources on Mental Health.