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Mental health tips for families
Talking openly with children sends a clear message: It’s okay to discuss mental health
Dr. Lori Phelps

MONROE — Well-being is comprised of much more than eating the right foods and exercising. Mental health is as important as physical health, but it does not always get the same attention.

“It’s very important that families focus on mental health from early on in a child’s life,” said SSM Health Behavioral Health Psychologist Dr. Lori Phelps, PhD. “Talking openly with you children sends a clear message that it’s okay to discuss mental health.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics indicate the number of children and teenagers reporting poor mental health is increasing.

In CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Data from 2021, more than 22% reported they had seriously considered attempting suicide and 10% reported actually attempting suicide.

“It can be hard to grow up with the pressure associated with social media and things like school shootings, so it’s important that kids feel they have someone they can turn to with their concerns,” Dr. Phelps said.

Adults also have their share of mental health challenges — like depression or anxiety. It’s not uncommon for those who are caregivers to often put their own needs last, which can take a toll. 

“Even if parents don’t have their own mental health struggles, it’s tough to balance multiple priorities,” Dr. Phelps said. “It’s important that there’s support for both children and their parents.” 

There are many ways that families can implement mental health check-ins, without it seeming too invasive or uncomfortable.

There are also lifestyle habits that can improve overall mood for kids and adults.

Families may want to consider:

●  Implementing phone-free meals, where everyone can actively participate in a discussion about the day and share any successes or challenges.

●  Actively listening to each other. Show children that they have your attention. Make note of anything that seems unusual with their behaviors and ask about it.

●  Setting aside time to enjoy a physical activity, whether that’s going for a walk, a bike ride, or trying something new as a family. 

●  Trying creative outlets like art or music as a stress reliever.

●  Encouraging everyone in the home to get a good night’s sleep. Turn off the TV and phones well in advance of bedtime and stick with a routine. Being well-rested makes so many other parts of life easier.

●  Making an effort to eat healthy foods and avoid alcohol/tobacco/drugs.

●  Downloading a well-being app for stress relieving activities like breathing exercises, visualization, or yoga. SSM Health partners with the Jacob’s SWAG Foundation for The Got Your Back App. This free app has custom tools that are designed to help users cope with stress, anxiety and depression. 

●  Reviewing what to do in case of a mental health emergency, and creating an environment that supports everyone sharing their feelings. Anyone who feels they are in crisis should call 911 or visit an emergency room right away. The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached by calling or texting 988. There is also an online chat option 

“People who feel they have mental health needs but are not in immediate crisis should speak with their primary care provider,” Dr. Phelps said. “There are so many options to help people feel better and live their best lives.”