May is Mental Health Awareness Month!
Many people struggle with mental health. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction—mental health issues look different for everyone, but everyone deserves care and compassion.
And that’s true for children and teens as well. A student that’s high achieving and socially adept might be hiding feelings of unworthiness and anger. A child that shows disruptive behavior in class might go home to a parent who can’t face getting out of bed.
That’s why it’s important to talk about mental health and the challenges many of us face as we try to stay healthy and productive and satisfied with life. When we share feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, exhausted, burnt out, and deeply sad, we are reaching out for help AND we’re modeling therapeutic behavior. Plus, we’re helping dissolve the stigma that’s still attached to mental illness. Even as rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are rising across all ages, there is still prevalent messaging about how therapy is a sign of weakness instead of a sign of strength and commitment to one’s health.
Talking about mental health, seeking help, and being honest are all ways we can help ourselves and each other.
And for those times that are especially stressful, there’s the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. This is a free, accessible phone number anyone can call and get immediate support from local crisis centers. Since it was founded in 2005, the center has received more than 23 million calls.
The Lifeline isn’t just available to adults—kids can call it, too. That’s an important resource for many teenagers who may not otherwise have access to mental healthcare, or who are too embarrassed to ask a parent or guardian, or who aren’t sure if what they’re feeling warrants help.
Classrooms, libraries, after-school programs, and anywhere kids gather can go far in promoting positive mental health practices. Adults in these settings can help by offering a Mediation Moment when everyone pauses to reflect on whatever’s going on in their lives. Maybe incorporate some yoga or deep breathing exercises into the day. Read books that feature characters who doing their best to stay mentally healthy. By acknowledging that everyone can use some emotional support, we can show children and teens that it’s okay to rely on each other, listen to each other, and support each other.