Expert authors dissect the mental health crisis among children and students

Danda Montgomery High Res

Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Danda’s release of The Invisible Riptide. // Photo by Marianne Kilroy

If you’re struggling focus in school, you’re not alone. Yes, I’m also trying to finish that project.

I haven’t been motivated to attend school and dread the idea of leaving home. Not only have I been exhausted by the thought of it, but simply getting out of bed has been a task.

I’ve been extremely anxious since the pandemic, but after speaking to two local mental health experts, I’ve begun to understand why students experience this kind of misery.

“The pandemic has acted as a catalyst to speed up the impact of many unhealthy things our society has relied on,” says mental health experts Dr. Caroline Danda and Dr. Carron Montgomery. “We have seen a massive surge in anxiety, depression, panic disorder, school refusal (which isn’t a fair term because these children are avoidant and frozen due to fear), a drastic increase in suicidal ideation and ER visits, and an increase in suicide and OCD.”

Dr. Caroline Danda and Dr. Carron Montgomery are both child psychologists and authors of the two latest book series, The Invisible Riptide and From Surviving to Vibing. They focus on the importance of mental health during such a complicated time.

The rise of COVID-19 cases severely affected the mental state of families, children, and school staff. That’s why both doctors teamed up to advocate re-connecting, re-regulating, and maintaining of the well-being in kids, adolescents, and parents.

“I began writing several months after the pandemic started, because it was impossible to stay silent with the consistent trends I was observing in my clinical practice,” says Dr. Montgomery. “I saw the massive need and felt a new passion for spreading the world in a way that would reach and help more people. I also knew that our field was already experiencing a shortage of clinicians and psychiatrists, pre-pandemic, and that so many people in need would not be able to access help.”

Since the introduction of the virus and its extended family of variants, the mental health crisis is at an all-time high. The adaption to remote education has been difficult for most.

With the uncertainty of tomorrow, I didn’t know if it was feasible to continue school.

“As the pandemic progressed, I felt an even stronger pull to spread the word about the mental health struggles I observed in my practice, my community, and even my home—and to be a voice for youth and my clients,” says Dr. Danda.

Times of disparity made everyone step out of their comfort zones, as it was the only choice for most of us. Dr. Montgomery expressed that she never considered writing due to her passion for being around people. That changed swiftly after quarantine took place, and the urgency grew within the mental health experts to make a difference.

The Invisible Riptide is a conversation starter and opens the door to find hope, healing, and connection. The Invisible Riptide is truly a tool for ages and all levels of comfort with mental health,” says Danda and Montgomery. “Some may appreciate the book as a soft introduction to understanding and exploring feelings and as a way to simply normalize the importance of mental health and emotional safety. Others may wade much deeper into the meaning of the riptides and the impact of the unspoken emotional current of the world.

The expansion of comfort zones can be a resilient process, but the conversation about exploring deeper meaning as well as the importance of emotional safety should be promoted.

Both The Invisible Riptide and From Surviving to Vibing: Filling in the Gaps are meant to be used as guidance resources for school counselors, teachers, parents, and caregivers.

Dr. Danda and Dr. Montgomery noticed the concern of parents desperately seeking information on mental clarity. They both curated the series to provide important details on navigating friendships, managing intense emotions, and discoverability.

“It’s unusual to see this large of a gap in generational knowledge surrounding mental health and that kids seem more comfortable than the adults about discussing it,” says The Invisible Riptide authors. “That is why we wrote the second book, Surviving to Vibing, to address this gap. Furthermore, adults also reported higher rates of depression and anxiety, which can limit their ability to be as attuned and responsive to their children.”

While we’re trying to understand the psychological phenomenon behind the awareness of mental health within children, there have been studies that have shown behavioral problems in kids under the age of five that didn’t have a typical school year.

In theory, this could explain the similar difficulties that all ages of students have faced in terms of school phobia. We’re afraid of the idea of school, especially when we’ve adapted to survival mode.

“The attention and awareness of the importance of mental health and emotional well-being have been a positive side-effect of the pandemic. People are talking more and are more open to talking about self-care and emotional struggles— that it’s normal to struggle and OK to talk about it,” says the doctors.

Since the pandemic, there has been a lot of attention on the importance of well-being. More children and students are comfortable with the conversation of our social and emotional status than ever.

With the help of Dr. Danda and Dr. Montgomery and their extensive psychology knowledge and backed research, they are sure to lead the youth in a positive direction.

“We are fortunate to see the difference that we can make when working with our clients and families,” says the doctors. “It is super-rewarding, although also exhausting when we realize we cannot help everyone in our office. This is what spurred us to write The Invisible Riptide series. The books and resources we provide are a culmination of our training and experience.”

Supporting the next generation is vital for our future. You can purchase The Invisible Riptide and From Surviving to Vibing: Filling in the Gaps here.

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