For California families, a mental health checklist is just as important to check off during this year’s back-to-school season as a list of school supplies.
After a stressful year spent learning remotely, many children may be struggling with their mental health. Living through the pandemic has been hard for everyone, but teenagers have faced unique challenges.
“They go from engaged learners to sad, depressed, staying in their rooms despite all your attempts to give them a balanced day,” said one parent, Ross Novie.
“He’s in isolation, so I think what it does to him is it increases his anxiety,” said another, Roxanna Aguirre.
According to Rick Birt, president and CEO of Students Against Destructive Decisions, socializing is an important part of the way teenagers function, which the pandemic changed.
“The very nature of how young people exist, how they socialize, it’s been interrupted and cut off in some form,” Birt said.
SADD put together a mental health toolkit for kids and their parents to check in on the effects those changes may be having.
“Our message to parents is there is help, there are resources you can tap into, as a young person there are things you can do to help your friend and that starts first with having a conversation,” Birt said.
The first step to removing the stigma around mental illnesses like depression and anxiety is to talk about them, he added. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four high school students suffers from those mental illnesses.
The mental health kit has tips to help start those conversations.
“‘Hey, what’s one thing you’re really proud of you did today, what’s one way you helped someone today, are there any goals you have for this week?'” Birt said of possible questions to ask. “Some things that might seem a little bit cheesy, but once you start peeling back the layers, it’s amazing how teens are willing to open up and share quite freely.”
And remember – what your children are going through is common.
“New anxieties, new pressures, losses of socialization” are things all teens are experiencing during the pandemic, “so lots to process for everyone as we think about back to school this year,” Birt said.
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