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Behavioral Health Q&A – August 2020

By: Lisa Desai 
Welcome to the newest edition of the Behavioral Health Q&A Column! VPPPA has partnered with experts at MindWise Innovations to present a monthly Q&A article addressing questions that members might be hesitant to ask about. These columns will address your questions about mental health, substance abuse, brain injuries, family issues and more. We will be posting a new column on the third Thursday of each month. To submit your own question for the experts click here. 

I’m worried about my kids learning virtually this school year and how isolating it will be. How can I tell if they’re struggling emotionally?
If your child is showing concerning signs, it’s important to acknowledge it and show your child that you care. Some general warning signs to look out for are:

  • Major changes in your child’s behavior
  • Hearing them sound really down or helpless
  • Listening for pattern of talking about hopelessness
  • If they’re sleeping markedly more or less
  • Increased anger, irritation, or agitation
  • Withdrawal from family or friends

In cases where children and teens are struggling with ongoing and severe depression, they may express thoughts of suicide. Always take any mention of suicide seriously and seek a professional evaluation. 
Suicide thoughts and feelings can arise when feelings of helpless and hopeless persist and/or intensify. While supportive responses from family members and friends can help get through these times, always seek out professional advice to help your child and yourself.

What should I do if I’m concerned that my child is depressed? 
If your child is showing signs of depression, it’s important to take some time to start a conversation about mental health. This can be tough for families as often in our society, mental health isn’t discussed openly like physical health.
Feelings of depression or anxiety are often hidden because youth are confused, embarrassed, or ashamed. You can help protect your child and their friends by talking to them. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Ask open-ended questions. Let your child steer the conversation to what they want to talk about.
  • Don’t rush to solve their problems. Instead, ask what they think would help a situation.
  • Be available and make sure your child knows it. “I’m here if you want to talk” may help.
  • Try talking on a walk. The relaxed atmosphere makes it easier for some kids to open up.

We also always recommend using the ACT (Acknowledge, Care, Tell) method:

  • Acknowledging any concerns your child may have about their own emotions or a friend’s reactions.
  • Care: Show them how much you care by listening and taking their concerns seriously.
  • Tell: Make yourself available as a safe person they can tell about big problems.

And importantly, if you’re having concerns about your child, reach out to their pediatrician or school counselor. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255) or Text ‘ACT’ to the Crisis Text Line: 741741 for free, 24/7 support. If you are worried about your child’s safety right now, call 911.