Mental Health & Young People: Back To School Triggers Different Issues

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Hundreds of people gathered to play kickball on a stormy summer day in Charlotte in memory of a young man named Sean Bonner. Sean was a Charlotte Latin grad and a college baseball player. His dad describes him as big, strong, athletic, and competitive. Sean died by suicide at age 20. Sean Bonner Sr. says, “Our son died because he didn’t know how to ask for help when he was going through a mental crisis.”

Through events like the fourth annual Kickball with Sean tournament, Bonner is determined to get more people talking about mental health. He and his wife formed Mission 34, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and increasing communication about mental health. 34 was the younger Sean’s baseball number.

After his son’s death, the elder Bonner was surprised to learn two things: “How common these problems are and second of all how treatable they are.”

This time of year triggers unique stressors for young people. Fear of failure is one. Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Christina Taylor says, “In the summer, there is so few things that you can fail at, versus when you’re back at school, there’s so many.”

Taylor treats young people ages 12 to 25. She tells parents to look for red flags that include: extreme sleep changes, extreme isolation, eating too much or too little, constant anger, and withdrawing from interests. Taylor tells parents to not be afraid of tough conversations. She says you could say this to get the ball rolling: “Sometimes all a teenager needs, a human needs, is to be asked do you want to stay alive, or do you want to die? And that opens the door for them to talk about the things that they’ve tried to shove down,” says Taylor.

At the kickball tournament, Sean’s dad explained why he and his wife do this. He says, “We tell Sean’s story in the hopes that someone who’s listening wont have to go through what he went through.”

One family, using their son’s love of sport, to connect, communicate, and maybe, save a life. Bonner says, “We have to get to the point where we treat mental illness the same way we treat physical illness.”

If you or someone you know is having thoughts about suicide, or experiencing a mental health crisis, you can call or text 988 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from anywhere in the country.