Mental health cases on the rise among SWFL youth

So many teens and young adults are struggling with their mental health in Southwest Florida right now, and one treatment center says the need is exceeding their capacity.

Doctors say parents can identify when kids need mental health help.

The signs of her daughter Chloe’s depression built up so slowly that Adrianne Weisberg says it was hard to notice at first.

“You don’t even realize it until one day, you sit there and go – oh my gosh, when was the last time I had a conversation with my child?”

When something seemed off, there was always an excuse.

“There was a mark on her leg from when she supposedly fell one day. And cuts that she always had an excuse for.”

Things escalated, and Chloe’s self-harm sent her to the hospital in an ambulance after her family couldn’t stop the bleeding.

“I’d asked her before, ‘What would happen if you accidentally cut to the point of hitting an artery? What if you…?’ And she’s like, ‘I’m not trying to kill myself, but I would be OK if that happened,'” Weisberg said.

“There were many nights we would wake up in the morning, I didn’t know what was going to be behind that door.”

While Chloe and her family felt alone, they aren’t. Rates of depression and anxiety in teens have been going up across the country for years – and then the pandemic hit.

“The social interaction, the uncertainty about school, what’s going to happen with my future? Worries about their family, recognizing and seeing some of their family struggles,” said Karen Buckner, the director of Children’s Community Services at the David Lawrence Center.

Buckner said compared to last year, the center’s Children’s Crisis Unit is now seeing an 21% rise in admissions. Kids also require longer stays.

“Our bed capacity for children is currently 11. Frequently and more recently, we’re finding that we’ve had days where we’ve had a census of 13 or even 16 children at one time on the unit.”

She said we need to notice when a child’s behavior is different and engage in judgment-free conversations.

“It’s important for the teen to have that safe space to express themselves and it’s also important for the parent to be able to respond to those concerns with information, support, and guidance,” Buckner explained.

One way to do that is through family therapy, something the Weisbergs did.

“I always say it created our own language. And so she can say, ‘I need to use this skill.’ Or, ‘I need this.’ And I’ll be like, ‘I got it,'” Weisberg said.

“I don’t fear for her in that way anymore. I don’t believe she’ll ever self harm again.”

Buckner said that when it comes to teens’ mental health, it’s not a one-time conversation. Parents and other mentors need to follow up and stay involved.

If you or someone you love are in immediate need of support, call 911. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.


Warning signs to look out for in your child:

  • Isolation or refusal to attend school;
  • Changes in eating habits;
  • Withdrawal from peers or social activities;
  • Withdrawal from extracurricular activities at school or in the community; and/or
  • Reports of bullying, harassment, or intimidation in school, the community, or on social media.

SalusCare has a weekly zoom support group for parents. It’s free and you do not need to be a client. It’s Monday nights at 7. Zoom ID: 975 9545 3712 Password: 488302

SalusCare Emergency Services: 239-275-4242

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255​

Disaster Distress Helpline:​

Parent/Caregiver Guide for Helping Families Cope with COVID-19:​​

Smart Social: Monitor your kids online​

National Association of School Psychologist: School safety and crisis (PDF)

David Lawrence Center website for children

If you or a loved one are struggling, you can find support by visiting resources on the NAMI website.

For a comprehensive list of resources and organizations, you can visit This is My Brave. 

For additional tools, including a treatment locator, you can visit the CDC’s mental health web page. 


FGCU Community Counseling Center

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry counties

Lee Health – Behavioral Health

The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers

Collier County Mental Health Court

Lee County Mental Health Court

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)

Southwest Florida Resource Link–substance-abuse

Stop Now And Plan (SNAP)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Talking to kids about suicide

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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