Talking about Mental Health with Your Children
Although many Americans hesitate to discuss it, mental health problems can affect anyone at any time, and are not issues to be ashamed of or hide. If your child is struggling, or if you suspect that a problem may be developing, broaching the subject early can have a positive effect on her treatment and recovery process.
For those families who haven’t experienced mental or emotional challenges, the topic may never have come up in conversation. This may lead your children to believe the subject is taboo, and render them unwilling to bring it up when they or a friend experiences a problem. Read on to learn more about the importance of talking to your family about mental health issues.
How to Broach the Subject
Bringing up any sensitive topic can be difficult, especially if it concerns your child. You can approach it in a non-threatening manner that shows how much you care by telling her that you’ve been worried about her and ask her to talk with you about what’s going on.
If your child isn’t comfortable talking to you, ask if she prefers to speak with a doctor, counselor or other trusted individual. Let her know that you care deeply and want to be sure she speaks to someone.
Communicate in a straightforward but compassionate way. Speak at an age-appropriate level and watch her reactions carefully. If she seems confused or looks upset, that’s your cue to slow down or back up. If she does open up, listen carefully and respond with love and patience. Most importantly, if you’re concerned that your child may be a risk to herself or others, it’s critical that you seek professional help immediately.
The best way to support your family’s mental health is to help them learn and recognize the signs of mental illness, and how and where to get assistance. Helping them learn about mental health can improve their own recognition of early warning signs, which in turn may lead to earlier treatment. Early detection and treatment improves outcomes and provides the best opportunity for long-term recovery. Remember also that everyone who experiences mental illness does it in his or her own way. Whenever possible, protect your child from well-meaning friends or family members who attempt to compare your child’s problems to their own, or to be dismissive of her struggles.
How to Help
If you believe you recognize signs of a potential mental or emotional challenge in your daughter or another young woman in your care, don’t hesitate to express your concern and support. Remind her that help is available and that any problem can be overcome. Ask her questions, listen to her thoughts and be responsive to her feelings. Reassure her that you care about her and offer help when she needs it. Educate your extended family and friends about the problem and help them learn to respond appropriately.
If you’re concerned about your teen and her mental health, communication is important. It cannot, however, replace professional attention and treatment. Havenwood Academy provides residential treatment programs for girls aged 12 to 17 who suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental or emotional challenges. Troubled girls and their families turn to the compassionate professionals at Havenwood for hope and healing, and they stand ready to help your family. Contact Havenwood Academy today for a confidential consultation regarding your child’s mental health.