Kids and Mental Health: How to Find Support
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As more young people face mental health issues, what can parents do to help?
Rates of loneliness, depression, and anxiety among young people are rising. Vivek Murthy, MD, U.S. Surgeon General, recently called these growing mental health challenges “the defining public health issue of our time.”
From the stress of growing up during a pandemic, to pressures associated with social media use, to anxiety about climate change, kids and teens are struggling to cope — and in many cases, their parents aren’t sure how to help them. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that mental health concerns top the list of parental worries.
Is your child having a hard time? Signs to look out for include changes in behavior or personality, weight fluctuation, insomnia, expressions of sadness or hopelessness, and isolating themselves from friends.
What can parents do to help?
A Harvard study identified several effective ways to promote mental health in young people experiencing stress. Try them with your children, and you may also find them helpful yourself:
- Create a structured daily routine—and stick with it. A predictable schedule makes life feel more manageable.
- Be physically active on a regular basis.
- Get the recommended amount of sleep.
- Limit passive screen time. Passive screen time refers to mindlessly watching TV or scrolling through social media.
- Limit exposure to news media. The study found that this is especially important with young children.
- Spend more time outdoors and in nature.
Does your child need more mental health support?
Raising children and teenagers is hard work, and it becomes even more challenging when your child has a mental health condition. A client, the parent of an adolescent with a severe mental illness, told us:
“When things go severely wrong with kids, as parents, we don’t know what to do. When other kids are spending evenings doing homework and normal things, we are physically holding down a screaming, out-of-control child having a tantrum, and just trying to keep them alive. It feels shameful, and no one wants to talk about that. Yet, there are transformative programs out there like wilderness programs or therapeutic boarding schools, places that have saved my son’s life.”
People who suffer from mental health conditions also have unmet physical health needs. Just as people seek help identifying the right homecare or nursing home options for an aging parent, those managing the care of a child with mental illness need support and guidance. When a child has a severe mental illness, a psych hospital is not the only option. In fact, there are various treatment possibilities, ranging from boarding schools that offer mental health care to intensive outpatient programs, but it’s important to find the right fit. A health advisor can help you determine which options to consider based on your child’s unique needs.
At Better Health Advisors, we work with the child’s parents and their entire care team, including therapists, specialists, and other important stakeholders. We leverage our network to find great programs and resources, and we make sure the parents understand the options so that they can make informed decisions about the best care for their child.
We help with:
- Identifying appropriate treatment programs
- Coordinating with key stakeholders (including psychiatrists, doctors, counselors, physical therapists, etc.) to create, coordinate, and carry out the child’s overall care plan
- Tracking the child’s medical history and progress so that providers can make effective treatment decisions
- Separating the medical components of an illness from the mental health aspects so they can both be treated appropriately
- Managing care proactively so the child’s team can do more than just respond to crises
If you think your child may need mental health treatment, or you have other questions about navigating the healthcare system, reach out to Better Health Advisors for guidance on how to access the best care.