Looking for reasons to feel good about living in Wichita? Well, stop right here. Really, don’t move your mouse or swipe your finger. If you are visiting this site and, in particular, my post then it’s safe to bet you have children. And if you have children then you are well aware they have their own set of feelings, thoughts and behavior. The delicate balance of these three little components makes up your child’s emotional well-being. I am sure you keep up on the news, even a little…usually hiding in a closet on your smartphone or cuddled up in your pajamas in bed with one eye barely open, nonetheless, you are current. So you don’t really need this child therapist to tell you our small people are reaching a pandemic level of illness. Anxiety and depression have increased by 30% in American teens. Suicide is now the second cause of death among adolescents aged 15-24 and that rate has doubled in the last 10 years. I could continue but I will get to the positive side of my story because there is, in fact, a positive side.
As moms, we can do anything. Fighting back against societal norms that encourage illness through poor diet, lack of exercise and plain ole’ disconnection is just where to start. What this means is you can begin your child’s journey to health by looking at your environment. Lucky for us, we live in Wichita, Kansas, which offers us three simple ways to improve our children’s mental health and don’t forget our own. Here we go, the good part I promised:
- We have the prairie. It inspired Laura Ingalls Wilder so that’s score one for me. You don’t have to be A Little House On The Prairie fan to appreciate the vast openness. Nearly five years ago, when we moved to Wichita I was practically compelled to leap from my car and run barefoot through the Flint Hills like Phoebe in the park episode of Friends – arms flailing, the whole thing. Don’t worry, I didn’t go through with it. But this is just what our children need. They need room to run. They need exercise. They need nature. All scientifically-backed facts that lead to wellness. If you need the science, here it is: Exercise, especially in the outdoors, has been proven to be as effective if not more effective than antidepressants in treating and preventing depression. Not only do we have the prairie, we have Botanica and public nature centers at every turn; something this transplant wasn’t used to but deeply appreciates.
- We have good people. I think this has something to do with being Midwesterners. If you measure Wichita’s placement according to two of the happiest places on the planet, we are nearly exactly in the middle of Disneyland and DisneyWorld. A coincidence? I think not. You literally can’t get any more Midwestern. Good people seem to be everywhere you go whether it is to your local grocery store or your church, I have never found a greater concentration of friendly and caring people. Our children need all the caring adults they can get in their lives to help them navigate their emotional waters. In Wichita, they will never have a shortage.
- We have good food. The standard American diet is making our children ill at alarming rates. Nutrition contributes to mental health. In fact, we have underestimated its impact and now our children are paying the price. But we have opportunities at every corner to nourish it and improve it. I have never seen so many healthy grocery stores in one small town. I have never eaten at so many good restaurants. And the weekly farmer’s market, my goodness, Wichita has it all together.
So, thank you, Wichita for improving our children’s mental health. And for the moms, who are sometimes forgotten as people, you too can enjoy the prairie, the people and the food. If this doesn’t work for you, stop by Cocoa Dolce in Bradley Fair. Always does the trick for me!