May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and May 9th has been designated as a special day to raise awareness about children’s mental health. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the purpose of the children’s mental health awareness day is to “raise awareness of the efficacy of community-based mental health and substance use for children, youth, young adults, and their families; demonstrate how children’s mental health initiatives promote positive youth development, recovery, and resilience; and show how children, youth, and young adults with mental and/or substance use disorders can flourish in their communities” (SAMHSA, 2019).
Parents can support a child’s mental health in the same way they ensure a child’s physical health by reminding the child to complete daily hygiene tasks or making certain their child gets enough sleep. One way to promote mental wellness is by building skills that support confidence, competence, and self-esteem. Strategies that encourage mental wellness can include helping your child create a sense of self, providing opportunities to be involved in school and community activities, talking about experiences and feelings, and building a positive and loving relationship!
If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, remember you are not alone! There are people you can talk to. Just like with your child’s physical health, it is important to detect a potential worry, intervene early, and get care and support. If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, a good first step could be to reach out to your child’s primary care physician. Consider contacting your child’s primary care physician if your child displays any of the following:
- Has a change in sleeping and eating habits;
- Feels very sad, withdrawn, hopeless;
- Feels highly anxious and/or overwhelmed;
- Seems overly angry, is hurting himself/herself, others, or animals;
- Avoids others;
- Talks about death and/or suicide; and
- Is using drugs or alcohol.
Parents often sense when their child is struggling. Pay attention to those feelings, find help, and advocate for your child! Take care of your child’s mental health just as you would his or her physical health!
For more information and to sign up for free online parenting programs that support positive parenting strategies, parent and child stress management. and health promotion visit: https://thrive.psu.edu
Find additional resources:
5210 Healthy (Military) Children: Helping Families Lead Healthier Lives: https://5210.psu.edu
Children’s Mental Health Matters: https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/sites/default/files/BACK_TO_SCHOOL%202014_Childrens_Mental_Health_Matters_Smaller.pdf
U.S Department of Health and Human Services: https://www.samhsa.gov/childrens-awareness-day
Mental Health America. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/childrens-mental-health
National Association of School Psychologists. (2017). Supporting children’s mental health: Tips for parents and educators [Handout]. Bethesda, MD. Retrieved from https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/mental-health/prevention-and-wellness-promotion/supporting-childrens-mental-health-tips-for-parents-and-educators-x38466
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2019). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/childrens-awareness-day/about