Minding Your Mind Presentation: "Just Talk About It" -- An Open Forum Discussion about Stress, Anxiety, Depression, and Suicide Prevention
March 19, 2015 at Bryn Mawr College
Presenter: Minding Your Mind is a local 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to reduce stigma and destructive behaviors associated with mental health issues while promoting help-seeking behavior in youth through education. Speakers included: Trish Larsen (Executive Director of Minding Your Mind), Sheila Gillen (Clinical Director of Minding Your Mind), Drew Bergman, Jaclyn Ricciardi and Carl Antisell.
Reasons for the Program: After a recent local tragedy involving a teenager who committed suicide, Minding Your Mind wanted to present reminders to the community about the importance of caring for and communicating about mental health in families. 25% of teens struggle with mental illness, but fewer than 10% who need help seek help. The stigma and shame around mental health issues typically prevents people from seeking help. Minding Your Mind aims to remove the stigma and foster more openness and advocacy for mental health care and awareness.
Main Takeaways for Parents and Families: Three young adult speakers from Minding your Mind spoke and shared their moving stories of their own past mental health struggles/crises and their paths to recovery. From these, the following tips were shared. Presenters suggested parents/families select one thing to start doing differently for you and/or for others.
Commit to consistent, open communication with your kids. Discuss and normalize stress and uncomfortable feelings. Parents' willingness to have open conversations about difficult feelings shows that parents care about their children's well-being. Know that it might be hard to do, but it's important. (One of the speakers reminded parents to "get comfortable being uncomfortable.") One way to help teens to open up is to engage in activities you know they will enjoy. Their comfort level will make it easier for them to share and stay open. The importance of setting clear, consistent boundaries and expectations was also emphasized.
Normalize the topic of mental heath in your household. Talk about mental health/illness in same way we talk about physical health/illness. It's important to de-stigmatize mental health issues, so teens are not afraid to bring up challenges as they arise. Don't hide or allow mental health issues to remain a dark struggle. Making room for conversation and open dialogue helps reduce shame and promotes positive coping.
Talk about, share and model positive coping strategies. Care for mental health in similar way we care for physical health/illness, and observe and talk about positive coping strategies. These can include and overlap with ways to take care of our physical health, such as getting enough sleep, adequate diet and exercise. It's also important to model "balance" and help your children not to overschedule themselves. Other positive coping strategies include taking responsibility for mistakes, spending time with pets, maintaining calm demeanor and centering/mindful breathing strategies. Parents should acknowledge they are real people who may experience their own mental health challenges and vulnerabilities, and if and when needed, parents should not hesitate to seek professional help for their own challenges.
Key messages from Parents: "I love you " and "You are enough." Our children always need to know that they are ok and enough and loved unconditionally. Positive affirmations and expressions of love go a long way to build connections and confidence. Even if/when your child may refuse to talk, continue to show and express that you care. Expressions of caring also can include and be in the context of setting clear and consistent boundaries and expectations.
Recognize warning signs and symptoms. Be aware when your child is under tremendous stress or exhibits changes in behavior, especially if they seem disconnected. That's when you need to ask questions, stay connected and seek professional help if you sense you or s/he could benefit from it. You may want to touch base with your children's teachers, who see them on a daily basis and often spend the most time of any adults with them.
Don't wait until crisis point. Education and conversation about caring for our mental health needs to start before the point of a crisis. Make it safe and ok to ask for help. Try to make your home a place where it's ok to talk about mental health. You do not need to bombard kids with scare tactics or heavy discussion all the time. Just by being a good listener, normalizing conversations about mental health and serving as a role model, you create a place where your children can feel safe.
Other Resources: Crisis Text Line. Parents can share this with their children.The Text Line allows young people to text and get support from crisis management professionals. It is a great tool that meets students where they are and can make services more accessible and comfortable to initiate due to the medium. For more information Click Crisis Text Line.
TEXT "START' to 741-741 --- FREE, 24/7, CONFIDENTIAL
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255