With 1 in 5 children suffering from a mental health challenge, it is more important than ever to bring awareness to children’s mental health. In Mississippi, approximately 131,000 children will experience a serious mental health challenge in their lifetime. Traditionally, May is dedicated to mental health awareness. To help better understand the importance of children’s mental health, Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) Chief Solutions Officer, Shea Hutchison, LCSW, shed light on mental health.
“It’s important for parents to have age appropriate talks with their children, about their worries, fears, what makes them sad, and what makes them happy,” Hutchins said. Checking in with your child about their feelings becomes routine and makes it normal. Understanding potential causes or triggers of mental health problems can help parents better assist their children. Things such as exposure to trauma, genetics, and environmental factors can all play a part in relation to a child’s mental health.
Recently the world has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. A stressor on this level contributed to the effects of mental health, especially in children. During the pandemic, children were sent home from school, without the possibility of seeing friends, or having interaction with other children. “Children have been isolated, exposed to stress in their families, they have been ‘dehumanized’ through the use of “Zoom” and wearing masks in public. We can’t underestimate the impact the social stressors have had on children over the last year,” said Hutchins. With a tsunami of mental health issues emerging as a result of COVID, it is important to pay attention to and be aware of any signs that may present themselves.
Knowing the signs of mental health is essential for parents. Significant changes in mood, behavior, or physical appearance like weight or severe lack of personal hygiene can be indicators of a mental health change in children. Recognizing other symptoms such as trouble concentrating, lack of motivation, or headaches and stomachaches may be signs as well. Hutchins suggests that, “These are signs that shouldn’t be ignored. Calmly talking with your child about what is happening in their life, normalize their feelings but don’t minimize them. Give support and don’t be scared to ask for help from a professional.”
Society can help normalize and be more accepting of mental health challenges by being open and transparent about mental health. “We need to be more accepting of each other in general, regardless of mental health challenges, we are all human and need to have patience and respect for each other,” explained Hutchins.
Talking about mental health challenges and listening to those who choose to share about theirs is a great start to stopping the stigma. Together, we can stop the stigma and provide a safe space for our children and families.
When your child needs mental health care, finding help can be overwhelming. If you think your child may be struggling with mental health challenges, Canopy’s Care Coordinators can help. Care coordinators guide you through the treatment process and are responsible for helping find the services your child needs, while managing your child’s progress in treatment and helping coordinate service needs with the clinical team through targeted case management services. For more information or to contact, call 800.388.6247 or visit mycanopy.org.