Mental health is one of those topics that is so broad and so complicated that many parents don't know where or when to start talking to their kids.
Todd Minichiello, Rockwood coordinator counseling K-12, shares that one of the hardest things about being a teen is that they tend to feel like no one understands them and that they are alone in their issues.
"One of the best things parents can do for their child is to remind them they do not have to go through anything alone," he notes. "The door to our school counselor is always open. Please contact them with any questions, and please remind your child there is a team of trained support here in Rockwood that includes social workers, therapists, school resource officers and administrators."
Below are a few tips for parents from counselors to make difficult conversations a bit easier, as well as some local and national resources that may help.
The way to bridge into the topic is through concern. You can start with open-ended questions, such as, I've noticed you're in your room a lot, what is going on? Ask open-ended questions instead of yes-no questions. Open-ended questions may get them talking. The next thing you want to say is that you're willing to talk about it. That's where it all starts. We want our children to be able to share and talk about their issues and problems. Learn more from Chads Coalition.
Many kids who experience depression think they will always feel bad, and that is definitely not the case. This is why it is absolutely necessary to tell our children that there will be better days. They need to hear from us that someday, something bad will happen, and it will get better and people can help you. Some parents may be afraid to raise the issue of depression and suicide because they think it's contagious. The healthy way to deal with it is to talk about it. Learn more from National Youth Lifeline.
There are some warning signs of suicide and depression: declining school performance, loss of pleasure in social activities, changes in appetite or sleep, agitation or irritability and substance abuse. Just as we teach our children to look both ways before they cross the street or to brush their teeth before bedtime, we need to arm them with the truth about depression and suicide. Learn more from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Mental health can be a heavy topic for anyone. The good news is that attitudes are shifting, and people understand how important it is to discuss mental health issues, such as suicide, depression and anxiety. Rockwood will continue to host events for our parents and community on these important topics. Always feel free to suggest an idea on an area of need with your school counselor, and access information from other helpful organizations. Learn more from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
You matter in good times and in tough times. We all matter.
If you need support during those tough times, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.