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Families must face internal forces impacting youth

As parents, we are always looking outwards, trying to protect our children from the endless list of exterior influences that strike fear in our hearts.

Drugs. Bullies. Stranger danger. Food allergies. Health concerns. School safety. And even just an uncertain future.

But, we all may be missing the big picture. Some of the scariest threats our youth can face come from inside.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every five children between the ages of 13 and 18 battle a mental health disorder. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in that same age group, taking the lives of more of our young people each year than cancer, heart disease, pneumonia and influenza. Combined.

Yet social stigma, lack of awareness and resources, as well as a general closed-mindedness by much of our society when it comes to the real dangers here, keeps these issues largely unaddressed.

Thankfully, KET is doing its part to change that.

In part to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, KET created “You Are Not Alone,” a six-part series designed to educate and raise awareness of youth mental health issues — including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, toxic stress and more. The goal is to bring the problem into the light and have honest conversations about actual solutions.

KET will be re-airing the series in back-to-back, 30-minute episodes on three consecutive Mondays, starting next week and running through June 3, at 9 p.m.

Topics to be covered include:

Monday: “Youth Speak Out” and “Help for Families and Caregivers”

May 27: “Whole Child, Whole School” and “Depression and Anxiety”

June 3: “Trauma and Toxic Stress” and “Suicide Prevention/Teaching Hope”

The full series is available for online streaming at KET.org. Additional resources including segmented videos and discussion guides are available online as well.

Sometimes, words of support or understanding can make all the difference. Here are a few quotes from a variety of sources that can inspire young and old alike.

• “Today I refuse to stress myself out over things I can’t control and change.”

• “You may have to fight a battle more than once.”

• “You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.”

• “I don’t want someone who sees just the good in me. I want someone who sees the bad as well, and still loves me.”

• “Turn your demons into art, your shadow into a friend, your fear into fuel, your failures into teachers, your weaknesses into reasons to keep fighting. Don’t waste your pain. Recycle your heart.”

• “Recovery is not one and done. It is a lifelong journey that takes place one day, one step at a time.”

But words alone won’t save anyone or solve this critical issue that knows no boundaries of age, gender, race or demographics. It starts with awareness and understanding. Then, it will require a unified effort to work together as the proverbial village.

Mental illness is serious. Now, imagine you are a teenager who feels alone, embarrassed and overwhelmed.

As parents and human beings, we have to make sure no child — or adult — ever feels that way.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Advocate-Messenger and Danville Living magazine. He can be reached at (859) 759-0095 or by email at mike.caldwell@amnews.com.