Barnstable County Highlights Mental Health Awareness for Youths

Barnstable County Commissioners Mark Forest, Ronald Bergstrom and Sheila Lyons.

HYANNIS – As mental health awareness month closes out, Barnstable County officials are highlighting resource programs as a growing number of young people report behavioral issues, stress, and more. 

At the most recent meeting of the county commissioners, County Human Services consultant Barbara Domenic briefed officials on an event earlier this month hosted by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Center for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky on mental health issues impacting young people.

She said 42% of students nationwide said they feel isolated and disconnected, and that 1 in 5 high school girls have experienced sexual violence. LGBTQ youth have also seen increased risk for mental health issues. 

She added that many studies point to social media as a possible source of negative health impacts.

“Bipartisan legislation has been introduced to protect the privacy of youth in their use of social media. Legislation has also been introduced to increase funding to the National Institutes of Health to investigate the effects of social media and artificial intelligence on the mental health of our youth.”

Domenic added that targeted ads can exacerbate health issues by feeding into problematic habits or insecurities, heightening the need for protections.

“Kids who present as impulsive will be fed ads to buy things. Kids looking at the sensitive topics of body image, weight control, guns, emerging sexuality, depression and others can be fed ads that place them a great risk,” said Domenic. 

Domenic said legislation has been introduced by state lawmakers that will protect those up to the age of 17 from having their privacy information collected, though few tools currently exist to keep young people protected.

ARPA funds have been directed by the county to address regional mental health needs, including the establishment of the Children’s Behavioral Health Workgroup to partner Cape organizations addressing the issue. 

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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