Mental Health Awarness Month & Adolescents – Darian Graells, Region 10 Coalition Coordinator & Tobacco Treatment Specialist


A 23 in FM 97.3 WZBG and as usual on the third Wednesday of the month we get to catch up with folks from the McCall Center for Behavioral Health and Health Bank. This time we want to welcome a new guest, it’s Darian Grails and she’s a prevention facilitator at McCall in Health Bank. Good morning Darian. Good morning, Dan. I’m very happy to be here today. Thank you for having me. Glad to have you. We’re going to take up a topic that’s really been getting a lot of national attention lately. It’s adolescent mental health. A lot of that coming off of the effects of COVID which we’re still trying to measure. Now this was already an important topic before COVID but talk about bold type and big font on this topic right now. So as your prevention facilitator and tell me what you’re grappling with right now in your practice with McCall when it comes to adolescent mental health, I guess we’ve got a huge supply and demand thing going here, don’t we?

Yes, so there definitely is a huge supply and demand thing going on. We’re just starting schools are starting to open up again and the youth are back in their school settings which I think is a blessing in disguise because a lot of them were feeling really isolated and kind of hopeless from being at home for such extended periods of time. Going in there and kind of we McCall offers like a wide vast of programs that are designated towards adolescents and one of those programs is Insight which is a psychosocial program that kind of was designed to provide intervention and early intervention and prevention to at youth at risk youth and that setting is kind of just an open space where these youth can talk freely about topics that they may not feel the most comfortable talking to any other adult about. So we kind of give them a little sense of agency because they have the ability to discuss things openly and really use their peers as a crutch to kind of offer suggestions and ideas on how to approach so many different situations from trying to quit vaping to advice and help through a breakup.

These youth have really almost became more connected since COVID. I’m sure technology has helped in that and also hurt in that as we know social media can be helpful and also hurtful especially to our youth with the amount of cyberbullying that’s taking place. But what I’ve noticed from just providing that free space for these youth to speak, they are talking about issues that are deep, they’re talking about how they spend their free time and how to occupy their minds when they’re struggling and one student identified that they feel a lack of control in their life, everything is dictated for them. So when this student presented a particular issue, we kind of used that information that he told us to help guide him and how to approach a conversation with his father that may have not been the most comfortable or the most easy conversation to have. We helped him have those supports to enter the conversation a little bit more confidently than he would have previously. That’s one of the things about adolescence is lots of times you get that communication gap between adolescents and their parents.

It’s easy for a lot of adolescents to think their parents don’t understand what they’re going through, what they’re feeling and also that they’re going to either try to fix it which that’s not what they want. They want empathy and they want an open ear or they’re going to pass judgment on it which neither one is what they are looking for. So insight, the program, how do we draw these kids out? Do we get them in it? Is this a group setting thing? Will you just try to get them to open up? Yes, it is a group setting. A lot of the students were identified by the school as being at risk and then there’s also a large population of students that just come for support. They just come to be around their peers and get advice or hear what they have to say or share what’s on their mind and that is really heartwarming because they don’t have to be there.

So, making the choice, it’s after school hours. I understand after school they want to go home and get comfy but these kids volunteer their extra time, their free time to attend this group and receive support which is really heartwarming. Doesn’t it show just how desperate they are to try to make those connections and get this stuff out? Yes, they are just desperate at this point. I feel like for any type of connection from being isolated for so long and having to rely on technology to kind of hold their friendships together, now they kind of have to learn how to reintegrate themselves into the social setting of school because it’s key to development. You learn a lot of different skills just in your adolescent years and those skills are learned from just observing environments, interacting with people of their age, interacting with teachers. There’s a lot of social components that come out of attending school for these kids. If you’re just joining us, Darian Grails is a prevention facilitator with McCall Center for Behavioral Health and Helping.

We’re talking about adolescent mental health which really took a hit with COVID restrictions and it’s a bit ironic how we’ve got a generation of kids that have grown up with electronics and in front of a screen but COVID has pointed out the one-dimensional aspect of those screens and how hungry and ingrained it is in us for real human connection. You add to that that when they do get out and they’re in a place where there’s human connection, there’s a mass cover in the mouth so they can’t gauge again that interaction that you get from somebody’s full face. So the whole thing really kind of piled on, didn’t it? Yes. On top of family stressors or whatever may have been going on in their family life, it just did continue to just pile up for these youth and then with a lack of support from just lack of resources available, lack of knowledge of these resources and just providers are kind of tapped out right now. There’s not enough adolescent mental health providers for the demand right now and that’s another struggle that we’re dealing with.

So in the meantime, just trying to offer parents and caregivers support to kind of deescalate situations and like have open conversations with your youth to kind of keep that space free and allow them to approach you with topics that may be pressing that they may feel uncomfortable discussing with just anybody else. Most of adults are like youths number one kind of motivators sometimes so just making sure that you’re available to have that conversation and try your hardest to be open and non-judgmental which I’m sure it could be difficult to do but just converse with these youth. They’re smart. They have a really good idea of where they want to be and where they’re going. Maybe makes mistakes so just remember that and try to keep that open environment. I think that that’s really important in getting these youth to talk about these topics that are kind of stigmatized or just uncomfortable generally to speak about. We have to leave it there Darian. I knew our interview time was going to go too quickly and that’s why I said I’d love to have about three times a time we are allotted.

So I would love to have you back and talk about this topic again get a little bit deeper into it. Darian Grills is our guest this time prevention facilitator for the McCall Center for Behavioral Health and Health Bank. Good luck with your job with your mission because you’ve got a pretty full plate right now so thank you for your time this morning. Thank you. All the best to the crew back at McCall and for joining us once again this time with our interview. We’re doing the third Wednesday of each month. At 8.31 we go a little bit late to the newsroom. Hey Jeff.