During National Counseling Awareness Month, Canopy asked our licensed professional counselors to give advice to fellow counselors and parents. #BurnBrightNotOut

Christina Palazzo, from Canopy Behavioral Health Clinic:

  • #Self-Care: Self-Care is extremely important when caring for others, whether as a parent or a mental health professional. We are not able to give to others if we are depleted. I like to create a relaxing space in my office with natural light, lamps, a diffuser and a sound machine. I strive to exercise at least three times a week, such as taking my dog on a brisk walk. I maintain an organized work environment and prioritize tasks so that everything gets done in a timely manner.
  • #Advocacy: Parents have many roles, one of which is an advocate for their child. This can be challenging when a child is exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness. Parent are often confused or ashamed and fear that they are to blame or will be judged as an incompetent parent. As parents, we can address the stigma around mental health by understanding that mental health is one part of a child’s overall health, by educating ourselves and seeking a support system. There is a wealth of information and resources available for parents. By educating themselves, parents will learn causes, symptoms, prevalence and treatment options. A support system will help the parent learn that they do not have to face this challenge alone and there is hope that their child can be a productive, healthy individual. Communicating this information to the child is also important so that they know that it is okay to not be okay sometimes, but there are things we can do to improve our moods, behavior and relationships with others.
  • # Inclusion:  We are all unique individuals with our own ideas and beliefs. As a parent of two teenagers, I have learned that our children’s beliefs are not always in sync with their parents’. I have also learned that peers influence the beliefs of children more so than parents at times. I encourage parents not to criticize or personalize their children’s beliefs. Keep the lines of communication open so that you can learn more about your children and what they believe and are interested in. If you keep an open mind, they will be more likely to share their beliefs with you. If you disagree with their ideas, try not to be too critical or this may create conflict in the relationship and they will likely stop sharing with you. As long as they are not doing anything illegal or unsafe, validate their beliefs and remind yourself that you have planted the seeds of your beliefs and your children are still growing.

Vicki Revell-Smith, from Canopy South Mississippi Child Advocacy Center:

  • #Self-Care:  I have been in the mental health field since 1992.  The first thing I learned about self-care was to get a hobby and participate in healthy behavior.  I am a very spiritual person, which has helped a great deal.  I have a great network of friends and co-workers.  I leave what happens at work, and focus on my family as soon as I get in the car.  I use various apps on my phone to practice mindfulness and gratefulness. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to laugh, talk, and take care of yourself first.
  • #Stigma:  I actually have a son with a mental illness.  I am open on social media and with the public about living with mental illness.  I post educational posts about mental illness.  I try to educate those who ask questions.  I talk to my son openly about his illness.  Stigma will always be an issue but we must let our children know that their illness does not define them.  It might be a part of them but it doesn’t define them.
  • #Inclusion:  Educate yourself. (Read, read, read).  My husband did not understand mental illness.  However, talking to professionals and researching information yourself does help.  Recognize that children do not choose to have a mental health condition, but we can choose how we respond to them.

Elliott Brown, from Canopy Therapeutic Foster Care:

  • #Self-Care: I have found that one of the simplest and most effective techniques for self-care is to take a break from your situation during times of stress. Whether going outside to get fresh air or taking time off from work, it can be surprising how a change in our surroundings can greatly improve our perspective.

Kristen Ladner, from Canopy South Mississippi Child Advocacy Center:

  • #Self-Care: Some self-care techniques I use are daily exercise; daily walks with my dog Willa; letting others know my needs; asking for help; and maintaining healthy boundaries.
  • #Advocacy:  I think one of the best ways to address the stigma around mental health is to compare mental health to a physical illness or condition. Just as we normalize going to the doctor when we are sick or managing a medical condition, we need to do the same with managing out mental health.
  • #Inclusion: A parent can be more inclusive by educating themselves. A positive way to do this is ask your child to explain how they are feeling and what is going on in his or her world. Another important factor is keeping an open line of communication with your child and listening in a non-judgmental way.  Oftentimes, just listening can speak volumes and make the child more likely to talk with you about issues they are facing.  I also think it’s important for parents to encourage therapy and actively participate in their child’s therapy. This give parents a chance to ask questions in a supportive environment and build positive ways to interact with their child.