Proactive Parenting: Recognizing when your teen needs help

In the U.S., 1 in 5 children experiences a significant mental health challenge. Even more disturbing is the fact fewer than 20 percent ever receive proper treatment. Early intervention is a key component in helping children to lead happier healthier lives.

“After living through a difficult situation, you don’t necessarily ‘get over’ what happened, but you learn how to cope,” said Anna Cox, LPC, CMHT, NCC, M.Ed., Program Supervisor for Canopy Children’s Solutions. “Teaching coping skills is one of the biggest elements we use in therapy.”

Being a proactive parent means allowing your child to experience life’s challenges, but being able to recognize when he or she may need help. Being proactive means playing an active role in a child’s life and being aware of the warning signs pointing to child’s struggles. Here are a few:

  • Mood changes. Look for feelings of sadness or withdrawal that last at least two weeks, or severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships at home or school.
  • Intense feelings. Be aware of feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason, or worries and fears intense enough to interfere with daily activities.
  • Behavior changes. Drastic changes in behavior or personality, as well as dangerous or out-of-control behavior. Fighting frequently, using weapons and expressing a desire to badly hurt others are also warning signs.
  • Difficulty concentrating. Look for signs of trouble focusing or inability to sit still for any length of time, both of which might lead to poor performance in school.
  • Unexplained weight loss. A sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives might indicate an eating disorder.
  • Physical symptoms. Compared with adults, children with a mental health condition may develop chronic headaches and stomachaches rather than sadness or anxiety.
  • Physical harm. Sometimes a mental health condition leads to self-injury, also called self-harm. This is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. Children with a mental health condition also may develop suicidal thoughts or actually attempt suicide.
  • Substance abuse. Some kids use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their feelings.


“Having periods of sadness, anxiety, or anger are normal,” said Cox. “When a difficult situation or intense emotions affects a child’s ability to function normally, that’s when you should be concerned. Seeking help from a professional will help them explore how they feel and why.”

Half of all children who develop mental health disorders exhibit symptoms by the age of 14. The earlier parents seek help for their children, the better chances of a positive outcome.

Working with a child therapist or counselor helps a child develop positive coping skills and gain a better understanding of their thoughts or feelings. Getting help early, even if it is just connecting the child with someone to talk to, is the best way to proactively help that child build strong mental health and overcome the many challenges they face.

Contributed by Laura Walker, staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions

This article was originally published in Parents & Kids Northeast magazine as part of the April/May 2018 issue. For more from Parents & Kids visit

Mayor Gives Official Proclamation for National Safe Place Week

The South Mississippi Children’s Center (SMCC), part of Canopy Children’s Solutions, hosted a special proclamation ceremony in honor of National Safe Place Week. The event, working in conjunction with the mayor’s office and Hattiesburg Fire Department (HFD), took place Thursday, March 22, 2018, at HFD Station No. 1.

Mayor Toby Barker

The ceremony included an official proclamation and remarks from the Hattiesburg mayor, the Honorable Toby Barker, and Canopy South Central Regional Director Tammy Miller in honor of National Safe Place Week. SMCC also recognized Safe Place sites who were in attendance with a certificate of appreciation for their partnership in the program, including HFD, Hattiesburg Police Department and the city library, among others.

Tammy MillerSafe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people under the age of 18, and up to 21 years of age in some communities, in need of immediate help and safety. As a collaborative community prevention initiative, Safe Place designates businesses and organizations as Safe Place sites, making help readily available to youth in communities across the country.Safe Place site partnerSMCC is the Safe Place agency in south Mississippi, offering safety and shelter to youth in crisis in Forrest, Lamar, Covington, Jones, Stone and other surrounding counties and states. SMCC has 43 designated Safe Place sites throughout the region including local restaurants, libraries, daycare centers, youth organizations, and police and fire departments, where youth can go for immediate help and get connected with SMCC. These sites are designated by the black and yellow Safe Place sign.

“Youth who come to SMCC through Safe Place can stay at the shelter up to 21 days at no cost to the parent or guardian,” said Teri Gay, Case Manager for SMCC. “We ensure that basic needs are met for every child that enters the shelter as well as services that include individual and group counseling, referral, support, case management, educational services, recreational activities, medical (physical, dental, and vision exams), and other services as needed. We work on a safety plan and long-term plan to ensure youth return to a safe environment when they leave the shelter.”


Mississippi Safe Place Agencies

In addition to the proclamation ceremony, Canopy staff across the state wore the signature colors black and yellow to show support of Canopy’s Safe Place programs.

National Safe Place Week is designated for March 18-24, 2018. This week marks the 35th anniversary of the founding of Safe Place in Lexington, Kentucky in 1983. Since that time, Safe Place has developed partnerships with 138 Safe Place agencies in 37 states nationwide with more than 21,000 partnering sites within local communities. Mississippi has three Licensed Safe Place Agency programs, including SMCC in Hattiesburg, and the Warren County Children’s Shelter, also part of Canopy Children’s Solutions, located in Vicksburg.

For more information Safe Place, please visit