Parents & Caregivers: How to Talk About Mental Health

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As a parent or caregiver, you want the best for your children or other dependents. You may be concerned or have questions about certain behaviors they exhibit and how to ensure they get help.

What to Look For

It is important to be aware of warning signs that your child may be struggling. You can play a critical role in knowing when your child may need help.

Consult with a school counselor, school nurse, mental health provider, or another health care professional if your child shows one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
  • Seriously trying to harm or kill himself or herself, or making plans to do so
  • Experiencing sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
  • Getting in many fights or wanting to hurt others
  • Showing severe out-of-control behavior that can hurt oneself or others
  • Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to make himself or herself lose weight
  • Having intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
  • Experiencing extreme difficulty controlling behavior, putting himself or herself in physical danger or causing problems in school
  • Using drugs or alcohol repeatedly
  • Having severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Showing drastic changes in behavior or personality

Because children often can’t understand difficult situations on their own, you should pay particular attention if they experience:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Divorce or separation of their parents
  • Any major transition—new home, new school, etc.
  • Traumatic life experiences, like living through a natural disaster
  • Teasing or bullying
  • Difficulties in school or with classmates

What to Do

If you are concerned your child’s behaviors, it is important to get appropriate care. You should:

  • Talk to your child’s doctor, school nurse, or another health care provider and seek further information about the behaviors or symptoms that worry you
  • Ask your child’s primary care physician if your child needs further evaluation by a specialist with experience in child behavioral problems
  • Ask if your child’s specialist is experienced in treating the problems you are observing
  • Talk to your medical provider about any medication and treatment plans

How to Talk About Mental Health

Do you need help starting a conversation with your child about mental health? Try leading with these questions. Make sure you actively listen to your child’s response.

  • Can you tell me more about what is happening? How you are feeling?
  • Have you had feelings like this in the past?
  • Sometimes you need to talk to an adult about your feelings. I’m here to listen. How can I help you feel better?
  • Do you feel like you want to talk to someone else about your problem?
  • I’m worried about your safety. Can you tell me if you have thoughts about harming yourself or others?

When talking about mental health problems with your child you should:

  • Communicate in a straightforward manner
  • Speak at a level that is appropriate to a child or adolescent’s age and development level (preschool children need fewer details than teenagers)
  • Discuss the topic when your child feels safe and comfortable
  • Watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if your child becomes confused or looks upset
  • Listen openly and let your child tell you about his or her feelings and worries

Learn More About Supporting Your Children

There are many resources for parents and caregivers who want to know more about children’s mental health. Learn more about:

Get Help for Your Child in East Central Minnesota

Seek immediate assistance if you think your child is in danger of harming themselves or others. Call 911

If you feel you are in crisis:

To reach trained crisis counselors by phone in East Central Minnesota, call 800 523-3333.

To reach trained crisis counselors via text message, text the word “MN” to 741741.

More info:

If your child is in need of community mental health services you can find help by contacting your County Family Services Department.

In East Central Minnesota:

Chisago County Health and Human Services | Mental Health
313 N Main St, Center City, MN 55012
6133 402nd St, North Branch, MN 55056
web: Chisago County Mental-Health

Isanti County Family Services | Mental Health
553 18th Ave SW, Cambridge, MN 55008
web: Isanti County Family Services

Kanabec County Social Services | Family Services
905 Forest Ave E, Suite 150, Mora, MN 55051

web: Kanabec County Children’s Mental Health

Mille Lacs County Social Services | Family Services
525 2nd St SE, Milaca, MN 56353
web: Mille Lacs County Children’s Mental Health

Pine County Health and Human Services Department
315 Main St S, Ste 200, Pine City, MN 55063
1610 Hwy 23 North, Sandstone, MN 55072
Toll Free: 800-450-7463
web: Pine County Health & Human Services Mental Health

Article Source:
Last Updated: 03/22/2019

How can you help?
Learn about what to say…

Crisis Help Call 988

Text “MN’ to 751741

Calls in East Central Minnesota are routed to local mobile or local phone help.
Click here for additional information
In a life threatening situation or medical emergency, call your doctor or 911.

Just need to talk?
Wellness in the Woods 5:pm – 9:am Daily 844-739-6369
Minnesota NAMI Warmline 4:pm – 8:pm Thur – Sun 888-334-7754
Mental Health Advocacy Minnesota Warmline 5:pm-10:pm Mon – Sat 877-404-3190

Posted in News & Events, Parenting.