Learn More about Youth Mental Health.

The World Can Be a Scary Place. Anxiety and Depression in teens is on the rise. Understanding and caring for our children’s mental health while they are young can help them realize their potential and reduce the risk of developing mental health problems.

Many children are significantly impacted not only by world events and catastrophes, but also by daily occurrences and life circumstances. The start of school, the news on television, the influx of social media, the death of a friend or grandparent, natural disasters, contentious politics, or even just a bad day at school can affect our children more than we realize.

In these unsettling times, it is more important than ever to remember that caring for a child’s mental health is just as important as caring for his or her physical health. This guide will equip you with a better understanding of how to talk to your children about difficult topics and engage with them in a way that promotes positive mental health.

How much do you know about Youth Mental Health?

We have answered the questions every parent needs to know.

Understanding and Caring for Youth Mental Health

A Report of the Surgeon General notes that mental health and mental illness are not mutually exclusive categories but are points on a continuum ranging from positive mental health through mental health problems to mental illnesses.

Mental health continuously shifts, changes and evolves during a lifetime. This graphic helps to identify the current state of a person’s mental health in relationship to how a person is functioning in the world and includes some of the factors that contribute to various states of mental health.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, ask the following questions:
  • Intensity: How intense are your child’s behaviors, thoughts, or emotions?
  • Frequency: How often does your child feel or behave this way?
  • Duration: How long do these individual episodes or periods last?
  • Functionality: Above all else,  how well your child is functioning in life? Is your child impaired in any way at home, at school or with friends?

Emotions or behaviors that are more intense, frequent, or longer in duration than most other children your child’s age, and that are causing impairment, may be signs of concern that indicate that consulting with a mental health professional may be necessary.

Resilience, a component of Emotional Intelligence, can foster good mental health.

“(R)esilience is the capacity we all possess to rebound from stress and feelings of fear, helplessness and overwhelm.”*

As children grow, it is important to teach them that it is just as important to take care of their mental health as it is to take care of their physical health. It’s a fact of life that bad things can and do happen and, while children can not help having feelings of fear, worry or anxiety, they do have the ability to rebound. The key is to help children build and increase their resilience as they encounter challenges in life by helping them acknowledge and move through difficult and painful feelings and sensations.

Science now shows that emotional intelligence enhances young minds and their capacity to integrate skills, attitudes, and behaviors effectively and ethically into daily tasks and challenges. Emotional Intelligence is:

  1. Self-awareness – Your ability to recognize your own emotions and their effects.
  2. Self-management – Distress tolerance. Your ability to manage emotions effectively.
  3. Social awareness – Perspective. Your ability to have empathy and respect for others.
  4. Relationship skills – Communication and social engagement, teamwork.
  5. Responsible decision-making – Identifying, analyzing, and solving problems.

While we may think we are protecting our children by avoiding unpleasant subjects, teaching them emotional intelligence, how to recognize, understand and deal with their emotions,  builds resilience and is one of the most important skill sets needed for lifelong happiness and success.  

* Trauma-Proofing Your Kids, Peter Levine and Maggie Kline

Written with Excerpts from Understanding Youth Mental Health, a partnership with Silver Hill Hospital, New Canaan CT
Excerpts from Understanding Youth Mental Health- Questions Parents Frequently Ask, a partnership with Child Guidance Mid Fairfield County, Norwalk CT
Sandra Birch, LICSW private practice clinician in Manchester, VT