In this day and age, everyone is so focused on connecting through cell phones and social media, we sometimes fail to “connect” in real life.
As a parent of teens who recently acquired cell phones, on top of the other devices that already stole their attention, I find myself fighting to keep our family engaged in real life, not just on the internet!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. A time to focus on increasing our knowledge of Mental Health problems and fighting stigma.
It’s more important than ever, to talk to your kids.
Like REALLY talk to them. I’m guilty. My kids have to tell me stories over and over again because I have my hand in twenty other things. Even now, as I’m writing, I am trying to find the time to do it all. Raising children is hard work. We have more stress than ever keeping up with the demands of this fast paced world we live in.
Being a child is also difficult. Sure, as an adult, I joke constantly about how I wish the only problems I had were the ones I had at age 16! But the younger me, remembers how catastrophic all those events felt and how someone with less strength and support, may not have managed to make it through.
Mental illness is a real thing.
People may tell someone that’s suffering from Depression, they just need to “Cheer up”. But lets review: Robin Williams- funniest man in the world, rich, adored by millions- took his own life. And maybe you think: “that won’t happen to us” or “not our kids, not in our town. ” But it does happen, in our own backyards. Did you forget about Junior Seau? A home town hero who took his own life. San Diego County’s Suicide Prevention Council reports that in the last 5 years, an average of 400 people annually have committed suicide. This number doesn’t include suicide attempts or deaths ruled accidental such as overdoses, car accidents, etc. This is all very upsetting but it is also VERY REAL.
WARNING SIGNS– to look out for an immediate crisis: CALL 911.
- Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
- Seeking out things that could harm them such as weapons, drugs, etc
- Talking or writing about death & suicide when that is out of the ordinary for them
Other signs of concern:
- Reporting feelings of hopelessness, feeling trapped, no reason for living
- Dramatic mood changes, anger/rage, anxiety
- Acting recklessly, unsafe behaviors
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from friends, family or society
- Unable to sleep/sleeping all the time
- Not eating or taking care of themselves
- Someone close to them has died by suicide in the past
- History of attempting suicide themselves
As a parent, what can you do?
- Talk to your kids. About everything, about nothing. Tell them you love them and are proud of them. Teach them to express their feelings and to talk about difficult subjects like pain, bullies, self image, etc. Ask them how they are feeling, often. Encourage them to seek you out and ask you questions. Sure it can be awkward at first, talking about difficult topics, but the more you do it, the easier it gets!
- Pay attention. Look at them, check their phones, ask who their friends are. Listen when they speak. Truly listen. Know what is going on in their lives, who they spend time with, who their favorite and worst teachers are. And REMEMBER their answers. If you aren’t paying attention, they will eventually stop sharing things with you.
- Reach out for help. If you are afraid that something may be going on with your child and they wont open up to you: Seek out backup. Dad, siblings, aunts/uncles may be able to help. If that doesn’t help- reach out to their schools, talk to their Doctor’s. Get a counselor or a therapist. Don’t let the warning signs go ignored because you don’t know how to handle it.
- Do Something. If your child has the flu, you take them to the Dr., no matter what your stance is on medications, vaccines, etc. Don’t you want to do whatever you can to help them feel better? I know I do. There are many ways to help individuals cope with mental illness. Individual and/or family counseling can help or even support groups. Medications are available to address symptoms that are more severe. If you are concerned about medications, there are also a variety of holistic methods such as meditation, Yoga, and regular exercise, which can help improve moods/symptoms. Our family uses essential oils to help promote increased feelings of well being and many other people benefit as well! Whatever you do, just do something!
In San Diego, specifically, there are many resources to help.
- San Diego County Crisis & Access line : 1-888-724-7240 Available 24 hours everyday. There is even a live chat option.
- San Diego Youth “Talkline”: 1 (877) 450-5463 Hotline for children/teens seeking peer support and referrals. 12-6pm Mon-Fri. Or leave a message and get a callback.
- Up2you.org is a local San Diego resource to help educate and support individuals.
- 211 San Diego is another resource online and/or call 211 to speak to a representative.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Available 24 hours everyday.
- Crisis Textline– People can now Text instead of calling for support. Text START to 741-741.