How to Talk to Kids About Mental Health Issues (at any age)

 

How to Talk to Kids About Mental Health Issues

 

As parents, we need to talk to our kids about “scary issues.”  The stuff nightmares are made of.  Stranger danger, drugs, drinking, smoking, bullying, mental health issues, and suicide prevention/awareness.  All parents want to believe nothing bad will ever happen to their child, and then the impossible happens.  Everyday, kids are kidnapped, overdose, start smoking, trip the kid who’s different from them.  Youth suicide has become an epidemic in this country.  Everyday a kid attempts or completes suicide.  Here is the definitive guide on how to talk to kids about mental health issues (at any age.)

 

How to Talk to Kids about Mental Health Issues

 

Safety First

You may be thinking, children who are too young won’t be able to grasp the topic of mental health and suicide.  They aren’t too young too grasp the concept of wearing a helmet, don’t talk to strangers, or look both ways before crossing the street, etc.  Children are never “too young” to learn about any topic (with a few exceptions.)  I’ll give you age specific ways to speak to your kids about mental health issues and suicide.

 

How to Talk to Kids About Mental Health Issues (Grades K-2)

For kids under the 2nd grade, you should stick to the basics, but definitely introduce the topic of mental health.

1. Mental Health

A mental illness is similar to a physical illness only you can’t see it.  Explain how the illness is inside the person’s brain.

2. Trusted Adults

This is a huge topic to discuss with your younger children.  Your child should have multiple trusted adults, at school and at home.  At school, their trusted adult could be their teacher, principal, school nurse, etc.  At home, their trusted adult could be an aunt or uncle, a neighbor, or coach.  Explain to your child they can talk to their trusted adult about anything.  At this age, kids still feel more comfortable talking to their own parents but it is still a good idea to introduce the concept to younger children.

3.  Emotional Intelligence

A good way to explain this concept to your kids is to compare it to traditional intelligence.  As they are learning their ABCs and adding, they should also be learning to express their emotions in a positive way.  We all feel angry, frustrated, and nervous sometimes.  Let your child know, all their emotions are valid, but it’s unacceptable to throw things when we’re frustrated.  It’s easier for every one involved, if we talk about our emotions in a positive way, even if they are negative emotions.  We, as parents, lose our temper when we’re frustrated.  When we do, we should apologize to our kids, no matter their age, and tell them, it’s not ok to lose it every time you feel frustrated.  *I know easier said than done, but everything take practice.

4.  Bullying

Let your kids know what bullying is.  Explain to them “Words Can Hurt,” and the impact of those words is some times tragic.  Kids usually don’t understand, laughing at a child who gets the answer wrong in class, can be extremely hurtful.  Tell your child that kids come in all shapes and colors and to treat every one they meet with respect and courtesy

 

How to Talk to Kids About Mental Health Issues (Grades 3-5)

It’s at this age that you can start introducing self harm (intentional injury such as cutting, pinching) and an explanation of suicide.

 

1.  Mental Illness

Explain that mental illness is not contagious, it can be hereditary but you can’t catch a mental illness from someone.  Be sure to stress to your child, if they are ever feeling sad or nervous for more than a week, tell you.  Or have them speak to their trusted adult.

2.  Trusted Adults

Reinforce the purpose of your child’s trusted adult.  Make sure your child has the contact information for their “out of school” trusted adult.  In my case, my two best friends, are my children’s trusted adults.  They know that they will contact either of them, if they need to talk.  My fiancé is also a trusted adult for my girls.  They talk to him all the time about things they think I will get “mad” about.

 

3.  Coping Skills

Discuss how to cope with loss, divorce, and other major stressors.  Tell your kids, it’s OK to talk about how they feel to you, other family members, friends, or their trusted adult.  Explain to them they are not to blame for the loss (such as divorce or separation.)  Talk about healthy coping strategies (talking and doing things with friends, journaling, mediation.)  And talk about unhealthy coping skills (eating too much, placing blame, isolating yourself.)

 

4.  Self-harm and Suicide

At this age, you should be able to explain what self-harming and suicide is.  Explain to your child what self-harm is, cutting, pinching, burning yourself or it could manifest as pulling your hair out.  Talk about why people would harm themselves (trouble at home or school, bullying, lack of confidence.)

Then explain what suicide is and the synonyms for suicide (killed themselves or ended their life.)  Talk about some of the reason why someone would want to attempt or complete suicide.  Explain to your child what to do if they having those kinds of thoughts.  Also, talk to your child about what to do if they know a friend or classmate is having these kind of feelings.  Always go straight to an adult if a friend or classmate says they are going to harm themselves.

 

5.  Personal Assets

Analyze your child’s personal assets, this could be, compassionate, confident, intelligent, well-spoken, like to read, basically anything your child could use to help them in life.  Then talk to your child about how they can use those assets in their everyday life.

It may sound complicated for a 5th grader but I promise it’s not, once they understand.  Here’s an example, an 11 year old girl is compassionate, kind, and understanding (assets) but not so much confident or outspoken.  In this situation we wouldn’t suggest for this girl to join the debate club.  Instead, we would steer her towards the welcoming committee that the school offers to new students.   Talk about how everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  It’s when we realize what our strengths are and then use them to our advantage, we really shine.

 

How to Talk to Kids about mental health issues

 

How to Talk to Kids About Mental Health Issues (Grades 6-8)

Kids at this age can get the full explanation on mental health issues.

 

1. Mental Illness

Explain the numerous different mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, etc.)   Let them know what the warning signs of mental illness are (behavior & personality changes, sleep problems, emotional outbursts, suicidal thoughts.)  Tell them, it is OK to ask for help, it does not make you weak in any way.  It’s at this age when kids won’t want to talk to their parents about their issues.  This is a huge reason why getting your child a trusted adult early on in life is imperative.  This is when you’re going to rely on your trusted adult to be there for your child any time day or night.

 

2. Bullying

The fact is, bullying peaks in middle school, with 25% of students, claiming they were bullied at some point.  Talk to your child about the strong correlation between bullying and mental health issues and suicide.  Explain to your child, one-third of the time, the victim never even tell an adult about what’s happening to them.  It is for this reason that kids cannot be bystanders.  If they see some form of bullying happening, it is their responsibility to tell someone, their trusted adult at school or home, a teacher, anyone.  Children who have been bullied report a variety of social and emotional problems-anxiety and insecurity can lead to depression and suicidal ideation.

 

3.  Personal Assets & Protective Factors

Explain how personal assets and protective factors promote and support healthy emotional development.  Personal Assets are an individuals strengths and weaknesses (such as confidence, compassionate, kindness, well-spoken, positive peer relationships.)  Protective Factors are the skills and resources a child has that could help deal with stressful situations (parental involvement, positive interactions at school, trusted adult in the school system.)

Caring family relationships make it less likely a child will turn to an unhealthy coping method such as substance abuse.  It increases the chances of your child coming to you for help in times of trouble.  Periodically go over your child’s strengths and weaknesses with them as they will change with time.

4.  Coping Skills

Go more in depth with your middle schooler about healthy and unhealthy coping skills.  Appropriate coping skills for this age group would be having a conversation with your family or trusted adult, journaling, doing something they enjoy such as art or writing, supportive friends, exercising.  Some inappropriate coping skills would be overeating, wanting to be alone, anger and rage, substance abuse, and thoughts of death or suicide.

 

5.  Myths about Suicide

There are tons of myths about suicide, I’m going to go over a few but know that there are hundreds that I could tell you.

Myth #1-If adults talk to young people about suicide, it will put the idea in their heads.  This is the furthest thing from the truth.  If anything, it would help kids to realize that we, as adults, understand what they are feeling.  When we validate their feelings and give them a chance to ask questions about mental illness, we will be able to see if they need help.

Myth #2-Most young people who complete suicide showed no warning signs.  Actually, there were probably numerous warning signs, but if you aren’t educated on what to look for, you wouldn’t know them.  It is for this reason that stronger suicide prevention programs should be in communities and schools.

Myth #3-the biggest of them all-there is no correlation between bullying and suicide.  It’s quite obvious that there is a very strong correlation between bullying and suicide.   It may not be the direct cause of the suicide but bullying definitely harms children way more deeply than we know.  If you suspect you’re child is being bullied, call the school, ask for their help.  Inform the school that your child’s moods have changed drastically and you would like someone to keep an eye on them at school.

 

6.  Where to Go For Help

Mental Health America has great screening tools that a young person or the parent of a young person can take.  The results will tell you what they suggest to do next.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Also, talk to your kids about going to an adult, at school, if they hear any friend or classmate talking about attempting suicide.  The school should know what to do in the situation.

 

 

Conclusion

Although, it seems like talking about suicide and mental illness, to kids, is macabre, it is very necessary.  The fact is we talk about scary stuff to our kids all the time.  We talk about not talking to strangers, drugs and addiction, smoking, and bullying.  Every day a new threat pops up that petrifies us, as parents, cyberbullying and online predators.  Talking to your kids about mental health issues and suicide will not only help them, it may help to save another kids life.

 

If you would like more info on how to talk to kids about mental health issues, I have an upcoming webinar on the subject.  Subscribe to be the first to hear about the dates.  Also, please share, in case other parents are in need of the information.  Thank you

 

Remembering Women Who Lost Their Babies to Suicide

On this mother’s day weekend, we feel the love we so selflessly give every day.  Our kids bring home their homemade cards, with their little hand prints or flowers they drew for us.  We go to brunch and get pampered for our one day out of the year.  But some mothers won’t be receiving homemade cards or extra hugs because their child isn’t here anymore.  They lost their child to the epidemic that is spreading through this country and the world.  They lost their babies to suicide.  Today, I will be remembering women who lost their babies to suicide.

 

Remembering Women who has lost their babies to suicide
Take time today to remember the women who have lost their child to suicide

 

Cornelia Reynolds

Cornelia Reynolds, lost her 8 year old son, Gabriel to suicide in January of 2017.   In a surveillance video, released by his school, you can see Gabriel being assaulted and knocked unconscious.  This incident happened 2 days before his suicide.  Gabriel laid there for over 5 minutes, being kicked and poked by other boys, before any adult comes.

 

When help finally comes, instead of contacting an ambulance, the school nurse had Cornelia pick Gabriel up from school, telling her that he fainted.  Later that evening, Gabriel began vomiting, so he was taken to the hospital where they said he had stomach virus (neither Ms. Reynolds nor the ER doctor had any knowledge of what transpired in the bathroom that day.)

2 days later Gabriel hanged himself with a necktie in his home.  In a despicable act, the school takes no culpability, stating that they “didn’t know what happened in the bathroom.” ???  How is that possible?  GO watch the surveillance footage that I just watched and you’ll see what happened, Carson Elementary School and the Cincinnati School District are heinous human beings.  Period (but that’s a post for another day.)

Today, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Cornelia for the loss of her only son.   My heart breaks for her

 

Remembering Women who have lost their babies to suicide
For some, this is a sad day. Please try to keep these women in your thoughts

 

Tricia Norman

Tricia Norman, lost her 12 year old daughter, Rebecca to suicide in 2013.  After enduring over a year of bullying and cyberbullying, Tricia pulled Rebecca out of her elementary school to home school her.  Rebecca had switched schools and Tricia believed her daughter was happy there.  She had no idea that the girls Rebecca had a problem with at her old school had taken to the Internet to torture her daughter.

 

Rebecca left for school on Monday morning but never got there.  Tricia reported Rebecca missing at 7 p.m., having never received a call from the automated system at the school telling her that Rebecca wasn’t there.  Deputies found Rebecca’s body at 2:25 a.m.

 

Tricia, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss and I will remember you on this mother’s day and every day.

 

Remembering women who have lost their babies to suicide

 

Katrina Goss

Katrina Goss lost her 11 year old son, Tysen to suicide, in April of 2017.  After returning home from school on March 14th, Tysen seemed happy and proud that he went to his tutoring that day without being reminded.  Katrina baked for him as a reward.  Tysen went to his room after dinner.

 

Goss went to say goodnight to Tysen around 10 p.m. and found his door locked.  She opened it with her key but didn’t see her son anywhere-she thought he was playing a trick on her.  Katrina found her son hanging in his closet.  She tried to pick him up while screaming for her older son to call 911.  Paramedics were able to revive Tysen but he succumbed to his injuries 3 weeks later.

Goss stated that evening Tysen was texting someone who was using someone else’s Snapchat account.  This person told Tysen his girlfriend had died.  No one told him it was a prank.  Katrina stated that her son died because of a “twisted, sick joke,” and I agree with her.

 

Katrina, I am so sorry for the loss of your son.  Please know I am thinking of you today and everyday.

 

Jane Clementi

 

Jane Clementi lost her 18 year old son, Tyler to suicide in 2010.  Tyler had been a victim of a disgusting invasion of privacy when his roommate at Rutgers University taped him during an intimate situation.  He then invited other students to view it.  Tyler found out about the incident and that his roommate was planning on doing it again.

Several days later, Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

Jane started the Tyler Clementi Foundation which was created to raise awareness and prevent bullying.  The Tyler Clementi Foundation is a non-profit organization working to end online and offline bullying, harassment, and humiliation.

Happy Mother’s Day Jane.  I am so very sorry for your loss

 

Remembering Women who Lost their babies to Suicide
Happy Mother’s Day

 

My Mommy

And last, but certainly the most important one to me, my Mom, Sue.  She lost her daughter, my sister, Jessie to suicide in 2015.  My sister was suffering from postpartum depression.  She was not monitored properly and ended her life in August of 2015.

Happy Mother’s Day Mommy.  I love you so much.  Thank you for being so strong and taking such good care of the girls and I.

 

To all the Moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day.  Hold your children a little tighter today as you remember the mother’s who have lost their babies to suicide.

 

Thank you for reading

 

 

 

 

Suicide Prevention-How I Went From Devastated to Driven Part 2

 

 

I have come up with my Part 2 to From Devastated to Driven Part 1.  Suicide prevention should be discussed in schools, period.  There are pros and cons to everything; medicines, books, movies, video games, standardized tests.  To take the stance, talking about suicide could lead to suicide, is not an answer anymore.  We have to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks of a prevention program.

 

To take the stance, talking about suicide could lead to suicide, is not an answer anymore. Click To Tweet

 

 

Why I Want Suicide Prevention Spoken About in School

My sister’s death has ignited something in me, a drive like I’ve never seen.   After reading numerous article on youth suicide, I’ve decided to act.  I’m currently in the research phase.

I really don’t know when my attention turned to the kids attempting and completely suicide.  It seemed like every time I opened my internet browser, a story about a child’s suicide came up.

The fact of the matter is kids’ young minds will soak up any information we’re giving them.  I know, you’re thinking, my kid doesn’t listen or remember anything but you’re wrong.  Kids know, realize, listen, and retain a lot more than we think.   I have big ideas on how to help kids retrain their brains, to believe in themselves, to love themselves, to forgive themselves for their perceived shortcomings or mistakes, they feel they’ve made.

 

 

Through my constant reading, I have been changed by the self help industry. I am going to write my own suicide prevention program with schools around America, and possibly the world

 

My Sister

My sister’s suicide in 2015 obviously rocked the foundation my life sits on.  Losing my best friend has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with.  I spent many days and nights in bed, hysterical, screaming “WHY.”  Almost 2 years later, I still do that on some days.

Other days, I thank her for changing my life.  She literally altered the framework of my life.  I’ve never been more ready for change-not only to change myself but to work to change so many who feel broken.

 

Evolution of Grief

You see, when you’re grieving, you don’t pay attention to anything.  You stay in your pajamas all day (which I usually do anyway), you cry so much you’re eyes won’t open, and then one day you get up.  You’re pissed and ready to throat punch someone, anyone, to take the pain away.  Then you realize, you can use that anger for something good and that’s what I’m going to do…….

 

Suicide Prevention

My New Plan

I’ve spoken to 10 different kids (ages 9-17), who go to ten different schools, and not 1 of those schools offer a formal suicide prevention program.  Or if they do, the student don’t know about them. I’ll have an extensive post about this coming up next week  As of now, I have a lot of work to do.  I’ve found numerous suicide prevention programs that I could potentially pitch to my school system.  To be honest, I don’t think any of them are promising.

 

 

 

I have found new enlightment from many sources. I wil accomplsh my dreams

 

…..But What I Really Want To Do

I really want to become a motivational speaker for kids, teaching them not only suicide prevention but motivation and self esteem exercises.  Sounds crazy, right?

I don’t think so.

I want to be the Gabby Bernstein of the 7th grade.  Or the Tony Robbins of the 12th grade.  I have so many ideas spinning around my head.  I want to write and create my OWN suicide prevention program!!!

Sounds nuts, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again.

I sincerely believe I can accomplish this goal.  I believe in my heart that I can change the way these kids feel about themselves.

 

 

 

My sister's suicide changed my life. I now want nothing more than to promote suicide prevention programs in schools

Life Coaching

I want to pursue a career in life coaching.  I know many of the kids I talked with, feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about certain issues.  In some cases, the parents are the problem, in the children’s opinion.

I want to help these families.  I want to be the voice on the other end of the line, that kids feel comfortable talking to.

Then I want to speak to kids about self-esteem, confidence, changing their mindset, realizing their dreams.

I want to help kids know their worth, know they are original and so very relevant to this life.

 

Write a Book

Also, I want to write a book.  THE BOOK on how to prevent suicide in children.

THE BOOK parents turn to when in need.  Sort of like Dr. Spock’s book back in the day.

I’ve never considered myself a writer.  I was always a math girl (still am) but something has shifted in me.  It’s like my soul flows through my fingers when I write.

 

I Don’t Know How Yet…..

 

Be the change you want to see in this world.  All I do, all day, is think about that quote.  Something has to be done, we have to say “NO MORE.”  We need to do something about the epidemic that has become youth suicide.

I don’t know how I’m going to accomplish all this stuff but I know I will.  As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is Figure Outtable!!!”

 

I Need Your Help

 

Now I have some questions for you, my loyal readers.  Does your child’s school have a formal suicide prevention program….not one they created after a tragedy happened-one that has been in place and being spoke about?  If so, can you tell me a little about it.

Also, can you please share this post, so other parents could tell me about any other programs they know about.  Thank you so much.