Focus on Mental Health
In the past few weeks, my news feed was flooded by reports of a school shooting that occurred at a Parkland, Florida High School. My thoughts turned to the students, faculty, and families that were impacted by yet another tragedy. There are no words to adequately capture the emotions that many of us are feeling, be it a combination of anger, disbelief, sadness, and grief. In order to support the children of our community, we need to make time to talk to our children about what happened in Parkland and to listen to how those events are impacting them. Although some students have been visible and vocal about their feelings and the changes they feel need to be made, many students are silently dealing with anxiety and fear as a result of what happened.
For me, hearing the news brought home the importance that we, as parents, community stakeholders, school leaders and students need to have frank and honest discussions about what the metal health needs of our community, work together to destigmatize mental health services, and to make sure that individuals have access to mental health services.
On February 7th, The Community Memorial Foundation hosted a Youth Mental Health Symposium at Ruth Lake Country Club. The well attended event was a chance for school officials, parents, and mental health providers to get together and be part of a discussion on mental health. These opportunities for dialogue, that include students, will need to continue.
As parents, here are some things that you can do to help your sons or daughters who may be struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression:
- Don’t let your child’s depression or anxiety escalate: Often children cope with depression or anxiety by withdrawal and isolation. When you see changes in your child’s behavior, talk with them. Encourage them not to isolate themselves and to be active by engaging in exercise.
- Listen-even when they are not talking: Trust your instincts if you are picking up your child’s stress level. Be aware of the impact that loss, peer or social pressure, and substance use are having.
- Share your feelings: Be willing to share your feelings and experiences of sadness and anxiety. This is not to minimize your child’s own experience but it is a way to offer support and understanding.
- Seek professional help: Having a safe place for your child to talk about their feelings and strategize on making changes can help them learn coping skills and gain insight. Therapy is not a quick fix and change takes time.
There are no simple solutions in avoiding these kinds of tragedies however we are better off when we work together as a community to seek solutions and offer support to those in need.
Front the desk of Robert Agnoli, Director of Mental Health Services at The Community House.
We can help. Call our private intake line 630-323-7500 ext. 239.