Carrie Bather is a proud alumnus of Gustavus Adolphus College, but she never expected to be working with her alma mater as a guest of the prestigious Nobel Conference so soon after graduation.
“I’m really excited to be involved in my public relations work,” Bather said. “I think that’s probably one of the most pervasive topics they could have chosen (for the Nobel lecture)… Gustavus brings these speakers in to talk about something that affects students so directly, no matter what. ‘year.”
The 58th Nobel Lecture will focus on the crisis in youth mental health and the disparities that exist due to factors such as identity, technology and trauma.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has driven the annual event online in 2020 and 2021, on September 28-29 the conference will return to Gustavus Adolphus College.
Nobel conference director Lisa Heldke said she would love to see attendees interact and exchange ideas in person again.
“As one of our presenters once said, there’s something about being in a room with other people, meeting ideas,” Heldke said. “When we hear a great idea and watch other people whose mouths drop because they’ve never thought of something before, it’s very exciting.”
The announced seven speakers will cover the effects of forces such as racial discrimination, loneliness within communities, historical trauma and digital addiction on the youth mental health crisis.
In 2021, more than a third of high school students reported having had poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mental health issues among high school students were already on the rise before the pandemic quarantine, with lingering feelings of sadness or hopelessness increasing by 40% between 2009 and 2019.
“Worrying about death and dying on a daily basis and losing touch with your peers and peer group, there will be long-term implications,” said Marie Walker, Nobel Conference Co-Chair and Chair of the Department of psychological sciences. to Gustav.
“And when you are a member of a marginalized group, for example, part of the LGBTQ+ community or BIPOC youth, there are even additional factors related to your identity that impact your mental health. The conference therefore looks at young people as a whole, but acknowledging much of that added stress that comes with trying to negotiate your world as a young person when your identity is sometimes threatened.
Walker said the mental health infrastructure in place needs to be strengthened, with more funding to increase the number of professionals who can provide equitable support to all young people. She said that in rural areas, this need is especially great, as fewer resources are usually available.
“We have a real shortage of mental health counselors, especially child psychologists, child psychiatrists,” Walker said. “And if you add that to being in a rural area, like we’re here, I know people who’ve had their child on a six-month waiting list (to get help), and that’s is devastating.”
Each Nobel Lecture speaker will explain their research on the disparities that complicate access to mental health care for young people of different identities, such as cultural community, race or gender identity.
Meryl Alper, associate professor of communication studies at Northeastern University, will discuss in her talk the profound impacts, good and bad, of exposure to media and technology on young people with autism spectrum disorders.
Alper said she would lecture on some of the myths about the relationship between autistic young people and technology and share research conducted on how people with disabilities access mental health support.
“Because the disability is so medicalized and exceptional, it can lead to having kind of blinders on not understanding these kids as fully fleshed out people,” Alper said.
Where research surrounding the treatment of young people with disabilities within the mental health system has traditionally been lacking, technology has now given these young people a voice.
“More young people with autism are talking about it, especially on platforms like TikTok,” Alper said. “Young people themselves now have a way to connect with each other to challenge misinformation or misunderstandings about how they see the world, the things they say are issues. I think it takes more attention.