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Southern Indiana father shares former struggles with social anxiety online

Depression, social anxiety in children is rising. Kyle Mitchell shares his own former struggles publicly online, encouraging others to find help.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A year spent out of school during the pandemic has had a huge—and growing—impact on our children. 

Studies from around the world have found that depression and social anxiety are on the rise, and can have profound impacts immediately and later in life.

It’s a struggle that Kyle Mitchell from Southern Indiana knows firsthand—and one that he now has made his mission to help with.

“I just would go into the bathroom, I would sit in the stall, and I would just sit there and I would cry,” Mitchell said, recalling his struggles with severe social anxiety in his teenage years. 

“I would have these thoughts in my head, like, ‘why can’t you do this? Why can’t you make friends with everybody else? You know, why aren’t you normal?'" he said. "That’s when I really had to face my social anxiety right in the face. And it smacked me around, man.”

Mitchell hit his rock bottom in high school, when he said other students noticed his isolation. It forced him to open up about his struggles to his parents and adults at school, which he said was the most important step in finding relief from his social anxiety symptoms. 

In college, he pushed himself further to get out of his comfort zone and manage his mental health. 

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Now at age 28, Mitchell is sharing his former struggles publicly and encouraging others to find help. Under the Instagram handle @SocialAnxietyKyle, he posts regular videos and inspiring quotes. 

He also speaks in front of large live audiences, something he would have never even dreamed of at the height of his anxiety.

“I started to build an audience, and I started to get lots of messages from people saying ‘Thank you, you’ve helped me so much,’” Mitchell said of his Instagram following. “I even have people tell me that I’ve saved their life. And I mean, how can I stop when people are telling me that? I just love it so much, like it lights me on fire.”

Mitchell’s message for our youth was important before 2020; but, after social isolation through the pandemic, it has become increasingly valuable to our kids as they emerge from social distancing and try to find their ‘new normal’ in school. 

RELATED: Louisville organization offering suicide prevention training courses

The University of Calgary analyzed nearly 30 global studies, and found the prevalence of child and adolescent depression and anxiety symptoms have nearly doubled during COVID-19. More than 20% of youth now report experiencing some sort of anxiety. 

Mitchell, though, sees a silver lining in this cloud.

“I think COVID has been positive, in a sense, on the side of mental health because it’s brought it to the forefront,” he said. “A lot of people are having to take on their own mental health for maybe even the first time.”

If social anxiety is causing severe problems for you or a family member, professional help might be the best option; but, there are things you can begin doing right now to help ease symptoms. 

For Mitchell, and millions of others, meditation has become a daily practice. And as a father now himself, Mitchell has gotten an early start on mental health conversations with his young kids.

RELATED: There is hope: List of resources for suicide prevention, emotional support

ROB HARRIS

Contact reporter Rob Harris atrjharris@whas11.com. Follow him onTwitter (@robharristv) andFacebook

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