Everywhere we look there’s gun violence: suicide, mass shootings, homicides and more. All I think about is protecting our children. A few weeks ago I lost my grand nephew to suicide and school bullying. We also need new restrictions on firearms access in order to address gun violence so the rising suicide and murder rates in some major cities is no longer a major issue.

A recent study reveals a concerning trend: a steady rise in the number of children visiting emergency rooms due to suicidal thoughts. Shockingly, this increase predates the COVID-19 pandemic, which only exacerbated the already overwhelming demand for psychological services for our precious little ones. Our children are facing a multitude of challenges in their lives, from the impact of trauma to social influences such as poverty, bullying (both online and offline), and the pressures brought by social media. They may exhibit signs like acting out, struggling to sleep, irritability, or withdrawing from others. We cannot ignore these warning signs. As parents, we have the power to make a difference. Let’s empower ourselves to truly listen and engage with our children. By building open lines of communication, we can better understand their experiences and help foster positive relationships. Seeking guidance from pediatricians and professionals can also provide invaluable support when our children are struggling.

Additionally, research suggests that nature-based programming can be a powerful tool in managing underlying mental health concerns in children. Prioritizing time spent in nature, engaging in exercise, and allowing unstructured downtime can contribute to their overall well-being. We no longer spend time star gazing, nature walking in our natural forests, jumping out in the rain, figuring out obstacle courses, catching fireflies, making mud pies, and building birdhouses. Break from the television and phones and come outside. Now more than ever, we must prioritize our children’s mental health. Together, let’s create a strategy that addresses the traumas and social influences they face and provides the support they need to thrive. Stay tuned for upcoming wellness programming at WorldBeat Cultural Center.