Today, 10th October 2018, has been designated World Mental Health Day by the World Health Organization. This year’s theme, set by the World Federation for Mental Health focuses on young people and mental health in a changing world. Did you know that 1 in 10 children will have a mental health issue? Or that half of all mental health illnesses begin by the age of 14? Yes, the statistics shocked me too. One of the myths is that a person has to be diagnosed with a mental illness to have a mental health issue. Not true. You have a brain, you live in this world, you can be susceptible to a mental health issue at any time. This is especially true for pre-teens and teens who are experiencing change in their bodies or changing from junior to middle school to high school etc. There are many resources out there to help bring awareness to mental health issues. I believe it’s important that we all strive to end the stigma of mental health illnesses and issues and begin a conversation around the topic. This article will highlight the top three things for me as a parent that has helped to bring awareness to my children and/or help with coping and preventing a mental health issue.
The World Health organization believes that any investment into evidence-based programmes for the mental health of young people should be linked to programmes to raise awareness among adults and young adults of ways to look after their mental health and to help peers, parents and teachers know how to support their friends, children and students.
Top 3 Mental Health Tips For Parents
Remember that communication is a two-way street. It’s not only about talking to your child but also listening. “Listening” can also include visual cues (i.e. body language or child’s mood). In my experience, creating a communicative, non-judgmental environment for your child to open up to you is key. My conversations with my children on such topics aren’t usually face-to-face but rather when I’m driving, if we’re making a meal together in the kitchen – just situations where they’ll be more receptive and not intimidated. Mental Health America provides some great tips for conversation starters.
Develop coping strategies.
I’ve come up with this phrase “take a SEC” when trying to help my children deal with a particularly stressful, anxiety-ridden situation. It’s an acronym that stands for Stop. Evaluate. Cope.
Stop – Encourage child when encountering such a situation to stop before acting out and saying or doing something based on negative feelings. Sometimes emotions can be overwhelming and blind us to acting in a negative way. Instead, maybe the child could count backwards from 100, think of a pleasant memory, anything that helps to pause from the situation.
Evaluate – Acknowledge how the child is feeling and get him/her to do the same. Phrases such as “it’s ok to feel that way” or “I understand that you feel that way” can prove to be helpful.
Cope – I find this is the very important step. This will highlight coping strategies to help your child reduce anxiety and improve their ability to cope in a stressful situation. Things such as taking a walk, reading a book, playing with a pet, creating art, writing in a gratitude journal are all great methods for coping. Encourage them to talk it out. If it’s someone that has upset them, then advise, if healthy, to speak to that person directly. And always, ALWAYS stress that they should not be afraid to seek help from a responsible adult.
This is extremely important for young children and teens. One routine that should be adhered to is bedtime routine to encourage good sleep habits. Teens may feel that they should have later bedtimes, but the research shows that teens need 8-10 hours of sleep per night to be able to function at optimal levels. Lack of sleep can lead to anxiety and difficulty dealing with conflict or other situations.
Of course, there are many other tips available, but these are my top three tried and tested ones. I think as parents, caretakers, teachers, it’s important to share our knowledge-base as well as experience. This way we can all help to bring awareness of mental health issues to the forefront. Each one reach one as they say (or maybe that’s just a saying in my house and I’m the only one who says it).
Have you got any tips to share? Or would you like to share an experience that you’ve had personally or of your child with a mental health issue? Please comment below so that we may all learn from each other. And don’t forget to spread the word!
For other blog posts regarding mental health issues check these out: