The Teen Mental Health Crisis:  How the Barber National Institute Can Help

For this week’s blog, I have invited Cecelia Hollands, the Director of Clinical Programming for Barber Behavioral Health, to discuss the teen mental health crisis and what services the Barber National Institute can provide in helping address mental health needs of teens and their families.

is a licensed professional counselor who has worked in mental health in the Erie area for ten years in various roles, including as a psychiatric rehabilitation specialist, mobile therapist, and outpatient therapist.  In addition to her work at the Barber National Institute, Cecelia also serves on the Board of the White Pine Center for Healing. 

I want to thank Cecelia for offering her perspectives and wealth of expertise, which I am certain will help teens and their families locate accessible and effective mental health services.

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In her most recent blog post from February 23rd, 2023, Dr. Maureen Barber-Carey wrote about a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) pertaining to teen mental health; Sadly, the statistics are both shocking and sobering.  As the Director of Clinical Programming for the behavioral health programs at the Barber National Institute, I am all too aware of the barriers facing adolescents in today’s world, especially if one considers the complicating factors of being an adolescent girl or identifying as LGBQ+.

While it should be noted that the data shows that all teens’ mental health has declined within the last decade, certain subsets of youth have far different experiences than some of their peers.  The CDC report, which looked at the ten-year period between 2011-2021, found that the number of teen girls who feel persistently sad and/or hopeless has grown by a staggering 60% since 2011.  Nearly 25% had made a suicide plan.  Additionally, almost 25% of female students experienced sexual violence within the past year and 14% reported having been physically forced to have sex.  Teens who identify as part of the LGBQ+ population are more vulnerable to all forms of violence than their peers.  According to the report, nearly 70% of LGBQ+ students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year, and almost 25% had attempted suicide.  

It should be no surprise that exposure to violence and/or the experience of sexual trauma is deeply intertwined with teen mental health and substance abuse.  It follows that nearly 30% of female students reported having used alcohol within the past 30 days.  Furthermore, students who identify as LGBQ+ were more likely than their peers to engage in use or misuse of all substances, including illicit drugs, alcohol, marijuana, and vapes.

There are numerous factors which have contributed to the state of teen mental health as it stands today (more than I can get into here), however, these factors are deserving of attention, reflection, and examination, which is why I would recommend reviewing the full CDC report.  Of equal importance is to examine what type of preventative measures can be taken, and what services exist to treat teens who are experiencing a mental health crisis.  At the Barber National Institute, we offer an array of services targeted for children and teens who are experiencing a mental health concern.  Our clinicians all receive annual training in suicide prevention and working with the LGBQ+ population and take a trauma-informed approach to caring for their clients.

Housed within our Intensive Behavioral Health Service (IBHS) line, we have master’s level mobile therapists (MTs) who can meet with their clients in a variety of settings, including the home, school, and community.  Our MTs all receive training and certification in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).  An MT will work with you and your teen to identify mutually agreed upon treatment goals.  While much of their work will be working one on one with your teen, the MT will also work closely with the parent or caregiver throughout treatment so that parents are aware of how to best support their teen outside of the context of therapy.  

Slightly more intensive than mobile therapy in terms of the frequency of services and the types of services offered is our Family-Based Mental Health (FBMH) program.  This program is designed to treat the behavioral health needs of children and teens whose mental health is severe to the degree that they are at risk of some type of out of home placement (such as foster care, inpatient psychiatric care, or long-term residential treatment).  All our FBMH therapists receive monthly training in Eco-Systemic Family Therapy through the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.  FBMH therapists work in a team of two and handle the therapy needs, case management needs, and crisis needs of the client and his/her/their family within the home, school, and community settings.  While your teen might be the “identified patient,” practically speaking, FBMH therapists work with the entire family system to assist with stabilization, establishing appropriate roles and rules within the home, and helping parents/caregivers best support the needs of their child or children.

Last, our Acute Partial Program is a short-term, 15-day program that is meant to provide immediate stabilization for children and teens whose behavioral health needs are causing severe disruption to their everyday functioning.  Programming is offered Monday-Friday (roughly equivalent to school hours) and encompasses psychiatric care, group therapy, individual therapy, and family therapy.  While in the acute program, clients participate in intensive group therapy and receive regular individual therapy so that they can learn tools to provide a healthy, safe means of coping with their particular challenges.  Additionally, clients and their families have an opportunity to meet with our psychiatrist several times within a treatment stay to explore whether medications might be appropriate.  

For more information on these programs, you can visit our website at barberinstitute.org or contact me at Ceceliahollands@barberni.org

Cecelia Hollands, MA, LPC

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