With school starting, it is common for parents to check on their child’s physical health. Are their immunizations up to date? Did they get their sports physical? What isn’t as common is checking on their mental health.
Mental illness, thought by many to affect a small number of people, is more prevalent than most think. Twenty percent of our adult and teen population meet the criteria for a mental health disorder every year. According to the World Health Organization, when comparing the relative impact of different illnesses, mental health disorders rank as the biggest health problem in North America, with the most common disorder being depression.
According to the 2017 SHARP Survey, our local numbers are showing 76% of our youth reported moderate or high depressive symptoms in the last 12 months. While 80% of our youth stated that they felt it is OK to seek help or talk to someone, 51% stated they did not.
What can we do to check on our kids’ mental health? The most important thing parents can give their kids is their time. Listen to your kids. Ask them questions about how they are doing and make sure you are nonjudgmental with your responses. Avoid telling them to “cheer up, pull yourself together” or “you’re OK”. Parents can also take a Youth Mental Health First Aid to learn the signs and symptoms of mental illness and how to assist when needed.