Preparing youth for the future starts with addressing mental health

Many of us had family who got COVID, died of COVID, or we got COVID ourselves. Soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidal thoughts have been reported among children and teens nationwide.

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Preparing our youth for the workplace must begin with addressing the national mental health emergency, writes Alexander Dean of Lincoln Park.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images (file)

In the commentary “Preparing young people for the workplace requires social and emotional learning,” Aaliyah Samuel makes strong arguments on the social and emotional skills young people need to navigate a rapidly-changing world.

But it should be stated: Preparing our youth for the workplace must begin with addressing the national mental health emergency.

Kids just spent two years attending school on electronic screens, with classmates, favorite teachers, sports and extracurricular activities practically gone. I was 18 in March 2020, and I can tell you something about online college and online school more generally: It totally sucks. 

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Many of us had family who got COVID, died of COVID, or we got COVID ourselves. Soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidal thoughts have been reported among children and teens nationwide. This was already a problem before the pandemic due to things like social media.

Illinois has made some progress on mental health. By Nov. 2, 2021, CPS had filled 573 school social worker positions, with about 25 vacancies remaining. A new state law allows public school students five “mental health day” absences per year. But more work is needed. 

There’s a workforce shortage in mental health. A bill in the Illinois House would address this: HB4238 would spend $130 million to increase Medicaid rates and payments to compensate staff, attract new talent, and expand services. Tell your state legislators to support this bill. If we want to prepare youth for the future, mental health needs to be a priority.

Alexander Dean, Lincoln Park

An idea on Putin

Casting about for a way to deal with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine without further bloodshed, in particular keeping the U.S. from getting into a predictably disastrous ground war with Russia or an even more disastrous nuclear exchange, I and a friend came up with an idea from the Peter Seller’s movie The Mouse that Roared.

In it, a small, no-account country, the Duchy of Fenwick, decides to attack the U.S., then surrender and thus be eligible for a Marshall Plan. The outcome and movie are ironic and hilarious, but the idea is to offer Putin a “deal he can’t refuse:” A Marshall Plan in exchange for the withdrawal of his forces from Ukraine, possibly with new negotiated borders. 

Peace is worth it, even at the expense of bribery. In this case, it’s the moral, humanitarian thing to do. A win-win.

Marion J. Reis, Lombard

Judge KBJ is who America needs

Ketanji Brown Jackson is exactly who we need on the Supreme Court. She has excellent credentials and was previously appointed to a judicial position by a bipartisan group of legislators. On the highest court, she would bring a perspective of justice for all.

Apparently some legislators are afraid of what a woman of color would bring to the court. Minorities are underrepresented, and so are women. She’s just what we need to represent all Americans.

Pat Fojtik, Palos Hills

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