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Meet Paige Masten, our new Opinion team member

·3 min read

Welcome to NC Voices, where leaders, readers and experts from across North Carolina can speak on issues affecting our communities. Send submissions of 300 words or fewer to opinion@charlotteobserver.com.

Editorial board announcements

We’re adding more voices to our North Carolina Opinion pages.

The combined editorial boards of the Charlotte Observer and News & Observer are excited to welcome Paige Masten, who will be a full-time member of the Board based in Charlotte.

Masten will write editorials, occasional columns and enterprise opinion on issues important to Charlotte and all of North Carolina. She was an intern in Charlotte in 2021 and quickly showed a strong ability to write pointed and nuanced opinion on local and state issues. She’s passionate about equity and accountability, particularly as it applies to state and local politics, and is excited to continue writing about issues that matter to Charlotte and all North Carolinians.

Masten, 22, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May with degrees in media and journalism and economics. She previously served as the opinion editor of The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s independent student newspaper, where she won state and national-level awards for her editorial writing. A Raleigh native, she has lived in North Carolina her whole life.

She cares deeply about her community, and hopes to use her platform to share stories and perspectives that too often go unheard. Any Charlotte and N.C. readers with a story to tell can contact her at pmasten@charlotteobserver.com.

We’re also pleased to welcome Matthew Ridenhour to our roster of regular contributing columnists. Ridenhour served as a Mecklenburg County Commissioner between 2012 and 2018, as a Republican representative for District 5. He is a third party risk manager in the financial services industry, and he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years, including two deployments to Iraq.

Ridenhour is a native Charlottean and graduate of Charlotte Christian School who serves on several boards across Mecklenburg. He and his wife, Abby, have two children, and they attend Forest Hill Church.

A mental health crisis lifeline

This month, two students at UNC-Chapel Hill took their own lives. The American College Health Association says suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, after accidents.

One in five college students has thoughts of suicide. Between 2007 and 2015, suicides doubled for females ages 15-19 reaching its highest point in 40 years, and increased by 30% for males. These are pre-pandemic statistics and we know stress has increased dramatically for teens and college students since then.

As a researcher who studies mental health in teens and young adults, I can assure you there is not a simple explanation for these horrific statistics. It is likely rooted in the confluence of many factors, including physical changes such as hormonal effects, changes in the teen brain making teens and young adults more prone to extreme emotional highs and lows, and external stress like social media, academics, and ongoing news about school shootings, climate change, and the pervasive contention in the political arena.

The current mental health crisis among our youth must be addressed now. Self-compassion programs offer one possible answer.

Among other things, self-compassion teaches you don’t need to be so hard on yourself to be happy and successful. When you treat yourself like you treat your friends, with understanding, empathy and with patience, you can thrive.

We were raised to be kind to others, but are taught that being kind to oneself will undoubtedly lead to passivity, laziness, self-indulgence and self-pity. Interestingly, research studies have shown the opposite. Being self-compassionate actually makes us more able to take on new challenges, be more resilient, more motivated to overcome life’s challenges.

This mental health crisis won’t go away. Our youth are suffering, in pain, often paralyzed with crushing self-loathing. They are searching for a lifeline. It is our responsibility to help. Rather than turning away and hoping it gets better, let’s work together — parents, researchers, school administrators, teachers and counselors — to bring research-based programs that work, like self-compassion, to help our children develop the resilience skills they need to cope during these challenging times.

Karen Bluth, Beaufort

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