HOW CARING ADULTS CAN START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?

We use the term “mental health” often these days. The importance of good mental health is being stressed more than ever before. But what exactly is mental health? Teen Talk describes it as “part of our overall health” (Teen Talk, 2021). The scope of mental health is broad. It includes everything from how you think and feel on a day-to-day basis to how you handle and cope with negative situations. As caring adults, it’s important for us to recognize when youth may be struggling and find ways to help them open up about their mental health. A study conducted by Child Trends reported that “the presence of one or more caring, committed adults in a child’s life increases the likelihood that children and youth flourish, and become productive adults themselves” (Child Trends, 2013). To learn more, visit TYAN’s Our Approach page.

TALKING TO YOUTH ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Talking to youth about mental health can be a difficult conversation. It’s important to create a safe space for youth to come and share their feelings as well as ask questions. When talking to youth about sensitive topics, being genuine is important (MHFA, 2017). In order for youth to open up and be vulnerable, they need to feel like they can trust the person they are talking to. MHFA recommends kicking off the conversation with honesty. If you are feeling awkward, they are too. Here are some questions provided by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to help get the conversation started with youth (MDHSS):

  • What does it mean to you to be happy?
  • Is it realistic to be happy all the time?
  • How do you deal with stress?
  • When have you felt stressed/what makes you feel stressed?
  • How do you calm yourself down when you’re upset?

  • Who do you feel comfortable talking to when you’re upset?

  • How would you encourage someone to seek help?

KNOW THE SIGNS

Unfortunately, depression is common among young adults. According to Mental Health First Aid, “more than 22 percent of people between the ages of 13-18 will experience mental health challenges” (MHFA, 2017). It’s important to be aware of the signs that someone is experiencing depression and may be suicidal. Below are some crucial red flags of when someone may be at risk (NIMH, 2021):

  • Talking about feeling empty or hopeless

  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions

  • How do you deal with stress?

  • Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain

  • Talking about being a burden to others

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

If someone you know is in need of help, the National Institute of Mental Health suggests seeking help immediately.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

If you or someone you know is in need of help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).

For more information on talking to youth about mental health visit http://teentalk.ca/learn-about/mental-health-2/

RESOURCES

5 tips for talking to your teenager about mental health. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). (2017, June 28). https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2017/06/5-tips-talking-teenager/.

Caring Adults. Child Trends. (Dec. 2013). https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2013-54CaringAdults.pdf

Home. Lifeline. (n.d.). https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Mental health. Teen Talk. (n.d.). http://teentalk.ca/learn-about/mental-health-2/.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS). (n.d.) Connect with Me. https://health.mo.gov/living/families/connectwithme/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). 5 action steps for helping someone in emotional pain. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/5-action-steps-for-helping-someone-in-emotional-pain/.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Nimh Suicide Prevention. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention.

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