Back-to-school letters from principals include a myriad of information and reminders for the new school year. The beginning of the school year holds so much promise and expectations can often be stretched. Because of these expected challenges, it’s important for parents to talk with their children about mental well-being.
As parents envision the year ahead and the things they hope to support their children in accomplishing, below are a list of ideas and considerations to reinforce the mental well-being of teen students.
Parents can be unsure on how to start this conversation. Something as simple as a car ride is an opportunity to talk with your teenager. Ask your child to give you details about what their ideal school year would look like. This will give you a chance to talk about stress factors and how to manage them.
Topics of conversation could include the importance of sleep and how many hours per night are ideal for physical and emotional well-being. Healthy limits on electronic use, managing stress, and personal definitions of "success" are all important topics that can lead to open-ended discussions.
Each community has its own unique mental health resources available. These include services provided by your school, local health professionals, community mental health programs, and local hospitals. Asking your family doctor or school staff the following questions, at the start of the school year, can help you identify mental health resources available to you and your child:
- How can my child access counseling services through the school?
- Are there mental health services available outside of school?
- Are there peer mental health support groups my child can participate in?
- Who should we contact if my child experiences a mental health crisis?
If you or your child experiences a mental health crisis, go to the nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-TALK (273-8255).
With this information, parents are better equipped to provide support to their children and respond in a crisis.
Lauren Olaiz, community liaison specialist of El Camino Hospital Behavioral Health Services, is working to advance mental health by informing residents in Santa Clara County about mental health resources available to them. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis in community health education.
This article first appeared in the August/September 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.