Increasing number of kids in SWFL with mental health problems

Reporter: Taylor Smith
Published: Updated:
Inspirational quote on the outside of the David Lawrence Center in Naples. (Credit: WINK News)
Inspirational quote on the outside of the David Lawrence Center in Naples. (Credit: WINK News)

Thursday is World Mental Health Day. Unfortunately, there is some grim news for Southwest Florida families. Under the Baker Act, mental health evaluations of children in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties have more than doubled in the past few years.

At one point, you or someone you know has dealt with a mental illness. Statistics show one out of five people struggle with mental health.

“Life is hard, you know?” said Cindy Lynn Highsmith, who is with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “And society has evolved in certain ways.”

“I’ve had family members, and I myself have had some challenges,” said Scott Burgess, CEO of the David Lawrence Center. “We are seeing more depression and anxiety than ever before.”

The statistics are shocking. Burgess said suicide is the second leading cause of death for children in the United States. But with more people struggling, it leaves foundations that treat patients with mental health problems outnumbered.

The Center provides inpatient, outpatient, residential and community-based prevention and treatment services for children and adults who experience mental health, emotional, psychological and substance abuse challenges, according to its website. The non-profit encourages anyone who has uncomfortable thoughts to ask for help.

“We are seeing a significant increase for the demand for these services and Florida is the worst-funded state for mental health in the country,” Burgess said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s ever necessarily enough,” Highsmith said. “I always feel like we could reach more people.”

Some people struggling with mental health problems, like Benji Hiner, are excited to share their experience and progress. Hiner wants others to realize they are not alone. “It makes it so much easier to reach out for help,” he said. “And you don’t find yourself in that deep depression where you’re not getting out of the house.”

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