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Back To School: Mental Health Awareness For Kids And Teens



If your child’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors were causing them to struggle, would you know how to talk to them about it? What if you discovered they were engaging in activities that were potentially destructive or even harmful?

If they came to you looking for help, would you know what to do?

Recent studies have found as many as one-third to one-half of adolescents in the U.S. have engaged in some type of non-suicidal self-injury. Self-injury often begins around the ages of 12 to 14, and it is most commonly the result of feelings of sadness, distress, anxiety, or confusion. Many often use self-injury as a way to cope with these negative emotions.

Some may find themselves with a constant preoccupation with a perceived defect or flaw in his/her physical appearance, which may not be observable to others, or appears only slight. Some may focus on the numbers on the scale, and develop unhealthy eating habits that can put both mind and body at risk. Others may engage in body-focused repetitive behaviors like hair pulling or skin picking, which are related to obsessive-compulsive disorder and cause shame and isolation.

If you think your son or daughter is dealing with low self-esteem or poor body image, is feeling depressed or is engaging in risky behaviors like disordered eating, self-injury or body-focused repetitive behaviors, there is hope and there is help.
Mental Health America (MHA) has developed tools and resources to inform both students and parents about why mental health matters, and how self-esteem, self-image and the disorders that affect the way young people see and treat themselves can affect a student’s overall health. Visit www. mentalhealthamerica.net/back-school to learn more.
There are also things as parents you should try to avoid.

Parents and caregivers often feel comfortable questioning or criticizing a young person’s choices—and generally do so with the best of intentions. Sometimes though, the way the words come out ends up doing more harm than good. When it comes to self-esteem and body image, it is important to remember that words matter. Try not to criticize or point out flaws, but rather encourage your child to talk to you about his or her feelings about their body or self-image.
Know that issues of low self-esteem, self-injury, body-focused repetitive behaviors, and distorted body image are treatable and should be addressed as soon as possible—before Stage 4. Just like physical illnesses, treating mental health problems early can help to prevent more serious problems from developing in the future. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health problem, it is important to take action and to address the symptoms early. Start the conversation. Your child will be glad you did.

There are also serious signs that someone is in crisis and needs more immediate help. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “MHA” to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor. In life threatening emergencies, go to your local emergency room or call 911. 

*** This article was written by our partner Mental Health America gather more information on how you can play an active role in maintaining your child's mental health by visiting their website

photo by aaron burden

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