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New HopeWay mental health center opens for teens and young adults

HopeWay has a new clinic on Monroe Road to treat mental health disorders in teens and young adults. (Not real clients in picture)
Jared Arceo
/
HopeWay
HopeWay has a new clinic on Monroe Road to treat mental health disorders in teens and young adults. (Not real clients in picture)

The number of teens and young adults suffering from depression and eating disorders or who have committed or attempted suicide is on the rise in North Carolina.

State health officials report that youths diagnosed with anxiety or depression increased by 49% since 2016. Some of that increase is due to the pandemic, but a lack of mental health services for that age group is also a major factor.

Last week, HopeWay, which provides psychiatric care in Charlotte, opened a mental health clinic for teens and young adults on Monroe Road.

WFAE’s Gwendolyn Glenn talks to HopeWay’s doctors Taren Coley, director of child and adolescent services and Greer Mitchell, medical director for eating disorders about the seriousness of the problem.

Dr. Taren Coley is HopeWay's director of child and adolescent services. She says 17.1 million youths in the United States will have a mental health disorder by age 18.
HopeWay
Dr. Taren Coley is HopeWay's director of child and adolescent services. She says 17.1 million youths in the United States will have a mental health disorder by age 18.

Dr. Taren Coley: We know that mental health disorders have become really the most common disorders in childhood. 17.1 million youths in the United States will have a mental health disorder by age 18. Now, that's more than the number of children with AIDS, cancer, diabetes, peanut allergies and asthma.

Gwendolyn Glenn: And what kind of services will you be offering at the new center?

Coley: We'll be treating a variety of different diagnoses from mood disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma, ADHD, bipolar disorder, among others, and this will be a combination approach of individual therapy group therapies and a whole host of integrative therapies, such as yoga, art therapy, music, as well as psychiatric medication management as appropriate. There's just a dearth of programs for teens in general. Our goal is to increase access to care and make sure that teens who are in need of treatment, are able to access that treatment.

Glenn: Well, Dr. Mitchell, I was reading from the press release you guys sent out that in addition to suicide, a major problem that teens and young adults have deals with eating disorders. How large of a problem is this?

Dr. Greer Mitchell is HopeWay's medical director for eating disorders. She says young adultsHop suffering from eating disorders has doubled since the pandemic, especially in the adolescent population.
HopeWay
Dr. Greer Mitchell is HopeWay's medical director for eating disorders. She says young adultsHop suffering from eating disorders has doubled since the pandemic, especially in the adolescent population.

Dr. Greer Mitchell: It's been a really big issue and has doubled since the pandemic, especially in the adolescent population. There is just even less access to care than there is for our other mental health disorders and illnesses, so getting these young adolescents, teens and also adults treatment quickly is imperative.

Glenn: And you said it's doubled since the pandemic. What's behind the doubling?

Mitchell: Oftentimes with these adolescents, it's rooted in trauma or anxiety or depression, and that was a really tough period of isolation and a lot of unknowns and a lot of fear. So I think it really kind of accentuated and that people's underlying illnesses are really even was a trigger for some people, and one of the maladaptive coping strategies that we saw really intensify was disordered eating as a way of coping.

Glenn: And some people think that is just young white women, but symptoms exist at higher rates in ethnic minorities.

Mitchell: Historically, yeah. The conceptualization is that it was a wealthy white teenager or young adult who would be the classic picture of anorexia nervosa. And we have found that that's absolutely not the case. We’ve seen rising incident rates and rising prevalence rates in minorities, in males and it's unfortunate because we were focusing a very, very narrow lens and missing and not capturing a lot of people who needed treatment.

Glenn: I've read that it's high with athletes, as well.

Mitchell: You know, maybe 25% to 30% of the individuals that I've had the pleasure of working with are athletes and a lot of them are elite athletes. Again, sometimes it may be they started working out and it kind of metastasized into an illness. And so we definitely see really high incidence rates on just not feeding yourself appropriately having kind of fixed or false beliefs or too rigid beliefs with nutrition when it comes to the athlete population, or even just having an unhealthy relationship with exercise.

Art therapy room at HopeWay's new center on Monroe Road for teens and young adults suffering from eating and other mental health disorders. (Not real clients in picture)
HopeWay
Art therapy room at HopeWay's new center on Monroe Road for teens and young adults suffering from eating and other mental health disorders. (Not real clients in picture)

Glenn: OK, what do you hope will change now that this new site is open? Doctor Coley, I'll start with you.

Coley: We've seen the inability to get folks the help that they're needing, and so this will increase access to those services. Right now we are giving callbacks to those who have inquired about our services and trying to get people into the door as soon as possible.

Glenn: How many have signed up and how many can you handle?

Mitchell: So there'll be 24 on the eating disorder side and then 24 on the general mental health side. One other thing I wanted to mention because, you know, in the outpatient clinic I've been working in for the past couple of years, we've been inundated with individuals and families who are struggling and needing hospitalizations. And to be able to open a program to hopefully save these people from that hospitalization or offer them an area to come to a safe place, to come and continue their healing journey, it's just, it's a dream come true.

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Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.