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'Believe them': Montana mom advocating for parents' engagement in teens' mental health

'Believe them': Montana mother advocating for teen mental health on social media
Posted at 6:11 PM, Mar 29, 2023

BILLINGS — Christy Reynolds wasn't very active on social media until four years ago when she experienced a life-changing moment.

Her family had recently moved to the Helena area and her youngest daughter was starting sixth grade. That is when depression and suicidal ideations started for her young daughter.

“She got admitted into a child psychiatric hospital up here,” Reynolds said recently on a video call.

When she was bringing clothes and other essentials to her daughter at the hospital, she struck up a conversation with another mother doing the same. Reynolds was just looking for a friend at that point.

“This mom felt like it was her child’s fault that he was in there. That made me so mad,” she said.

So, she posted a video on Instagram sharing her frustrations with that opinion. Now, she has over 10,000 followers.

“I’ve gotten hundreds or hundreds of messages from people being like, ‘oh my god, thank you so much for your account.’ ‘I feel so seen.’ ‘I’ve never heard anybody talk the way that you talk, you don’t sugarcoat things.’ Just a lot of that kind of feedback,” Reynolds said.

The most recent Youth Risk Behavior study by the CDC in 2021 shows that 21.7% of Montana high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year. About 18% had made a plan to commit suicide and 10.2% attempted suicide.

Montana's school counselor of the year, Chad Jackson, said he's seen a notable increase in the need for mental health services for children. Jackson is a counselor at Ponderosa Elementary School in Billings and runs his own therapy practice.

“Eighty-seven percent of schools right now are reporting an increase in behavioral disruptions and a decrease in social development and really all of those things point directly to mental health,” he said.

Jackson's advice for any parents or guardians with a child struggling with mental health is to talk about it with them.

“We have to de-stigmatize talking about it,” Jackson said. “One of the biggest things that I have to teach children, and even teens and adults, you know parents, is hey, we need to talk about this.”

And that's exactly what Reynolds is advocating for.

“[If your] child or teen comes to you and tells you that they’re struggling in some sort of manner or if their behavior starts changing, start paying attention. And if they come to you, please believe them.”