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‘Raising Joy’ podcast from Cook Children’s aims to address youth mental health crisis

Cook Childrens Raising Joy Podcast 1
Cook Children's Medical Center
Dr. Kristen Pyrc, medical director for outpatient psychiatry, and senior vice president Wini King pose in front of the Cook Children's Medical Center logo.

The weekly conversation podcast was started in response to skyrocketing mental health concerns among children, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A note to readers: The following story mentions suicide.

Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth has launched a podcast called "Raising Joy" about the unique mental health struggles children face at this time, and how adults can help address them.

Wini King, senior vice president of Cook Children’s, and Dr. Kristen Pyrc, medical director for outpatient psychiatry, co-host the podcast.

King said the idea for the podcast came amid what Cook Children’s describes as a “youth mental health crisis.”

Wini King Cook Childrens Raising Joy Podcast
Cook Children's Medical Center
Cook Children's senior vice president Wini King speaks into a mic as she interviews a guest for the hospital systems new podcast, 'Raising Joy.'

In October of last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) declared a state of emergency on children’s mental health. They cited the pandemic as a primary cause, noting that children and teens have faced consistent isolation, uncertainty, fear and grief.

Mental health experts at Cook Children’s are also seeing an increase in severe mental health issues. From January to July 2021, nearly double the number of patients were hospitalized for injuries after a suicide attempt than over the same time period in 2020.

“It’s been extremely exacerbated by the pandemic,” King said. “We are looking at uncovering and unpacking all of the things that have occurred within that realm, how it has impacted kids … and they are all experiencing this differently.”

Dr. Pyrc said she hopes the podcast will help mental health providers get creative with how they educate and support parents amid this crisis.

“We’re hoping that by educating parents about what depression looks like in teenagers and kids, that they can get access to counseling sooner and hopefully prevent the need to ever see a psychiatrist or go into an inpatient psychiatric facility,” Pyrc said.

"If you care for a kid, this podcast is for you."
Dr. Kristen Pyrc, co-host of Raising Joy podcast

The podcast hosts also aim to reduce the stigma some parents feel when their child is dealing with a mental health concern.

“If your child is suffering, parents are so guilty, they think ‘It’s my fault, it’s my issue. I did it,’” King said. “I’m hoping they understand that no, baby, it’s not you. There [are] a whole host of folks out there who are dealing with this same kind of issue.”

“I do hope we can reduce whatever stigma is around it for the parents, and that they just honestly give themselves a little more grace,” she added.

Dr. Kristen Pyrc Cook Childrens Raising Joy
Cook Children's Medical Center
Dr. Kristen Pyrc, medical director for outpatient psychiatry at Cook Children's, listens to a guest speaking on the hospital system's new podcast about childhood mental health struggles, "Raising Joy."

The podcast will release an episode each Tuesday, featuring conversations with a variety of subject matter experts on a wide range of topics, like adverse childhood experiences, addiction, bullying and more.

While the podcast is geared toward parents, Dr. Pyrc said anyone with children in their lives could benefit from listening.

“Whether that be a teacher or a coach, a dance teacher,” she said. “I think just with our kids having access to the internet, they experience and they know about so much more than I did as a child. So I think having some education and tools could be helpful for anybody. If you care for a kid, this podcast is for you.”

If you or a loved one needs help, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Got a tip? Email Rebekah Morr at You can follow her on Twitter @bekah_morr.

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Rebekah Morr is KERA's All Things Considered newscaster and producer. She came to KERA from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a news assistant at Weekend All Things Considered.