Mental Health

Let Us Talk About Mental Health

If you have, or believe you may have, mental health problem, it can be helpful to talk about these issues with others. It can be scary to reach out for help, but it is often the first step to helping you heal, grow, and recover.

Having a good support system and engaging with trustworthy people are key elements to successfully talking about your own mental health.

Build Your Support System

Find someone—such as a parent, family member, teacher, faith leader, health care provider or other trusted individual, who:

  • Gives good advice when you want and ask for it; assists you in taking action that will help

  • Likes, respects, and trusts you and who you like, respect, and trust, too

  • Allows you the space to change, grow, make decisions, and even make mistakes

  • Listens to you and shares with you, both the good and bad times

  • Respects your need for confidentiality so you can tell him or her anything

  • Lets you freely express your feelings and emotions without judging, teasing, or criticizing

  • Works with you to figure out what to do the next time a difficult situation comes up

Find Yourself a Peer Group

  • Find a group of people with mental health problems similar to yours. Peer support relationships can positively affect individual recovery because:

  • People who have common life experiences have a unique ability to help each other based on a shared history and a deep understanding that may go beyond what exists in other relationships

  • People offer their experiences, strengths, and hopes to peers, which allows for natural evolution of personal growth, wellness promotion, and recovery

  • Peers can be very supportive since they have “been there” and serve as living examples that individuals can and do recover from mental health problems

  • Peers also serve as advocates and support others who may experience discrimination and prejudice

You may want to start or join a self-help or peer support group. National organizations across the country have peer support networks and peer advocates. Find an organization in your area that can help you connect with a peer group or a peer support group.

For Young People Looking for Help

Mental health problems don’t only affect adults. Children, teens and young adults can have mental health problems, too. In fact, three out of four people with mental health problems showed signs before they were 24 years old.

If you’re thinking about harming yourself get help immediately. You can call 911 or the National Suicide Hot line at: 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

What Does “Mental Health Problem” Mean?

Are you having trouble doing the things you like to do or need to do because of how you feel – like going to school, work or hanging out with friends?

Are you having a rough day? Have you been feeling down for a while? Everyone goes through tough times, and no matter how long you’ve had something on your mind, it’s important that you talk to someone about it.

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult if you experience any of these things:

  • Can’t eat or sleep

  • Can’t perform daily tasks like going to school

  • Don’t want to hang out with your friends or family

  • Don’t want to do things you usually enjoy

  • Fight a lot with family and friends

  • Feel like you can’t control your emotions and it’s effecting your relationships with your family and friends

  • Have low or no energy

  • Feel hopeless

  • Feel numb or like nothing matters

  • Can’t stop thinking about certain things or memories

  • Feel confused, forgetful, edgy, angry, upset, worried, or scared

  • Want to harm yourself or others

  • Have random aches and pains

  • Smoke, drink, or use drugs

  • Hear voices

Where Can I Get Help?

You are not alone. Lots of people have been where you are or are there right now. But there are also lots of people that want to help you!

If you’re thinking about harming yourself get help immediately. You can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at: 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

Another way to get help is by talking to someone you trust. This could be a parent, family member, teacher, school counselor, spiritual leader or another trusted adult, who:

  • Gives good advice when you want and ask for it

  • Respects your need for privacy so you can tell him or her anything

  • Lets you talk freely about your feelings and emotions without judging, teasing, or criticizing

  • Helps you figure out what to do the next time a difficult situation comes up

For Parents and Caregivers

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

Get Help for Your Child

Seek immediate assistance if you think your child is in danger of harming themselves or others. You can call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

If your child is in need of community mental health services you can find help in your area.

For Friends and Family Members

Anyone can experience mental health problems. Friends and family can make all the difference in a person’srecovery process.

Supporting a Friend or Family Member with Mental Health Problems

You can help your friend or family member by recognizing the signs of mental health problems and connecting them to professional help.

Talking to friends and family about mental health problems can be an opportunity to provide information, support, and guidance. Learning about mental health issues can lead to:

  • Improved recognition of early signs of mental health problems

  • Earlier treatment

  • Greater understanding and compassion

If a friend or family member is showing signs of mental health problems or reaching out to you for help, offer support by:

  • Finding out if the person is getting the care that he or she needs and wants—if not, connect him or her to help

  • Expressing your concern and support

  • Reminding your friend or family member that help is available and that mental health problems can be treated

  • Asking questions, listening to ideas, and being responsive when the topic of mental health problems come up

  • Reassuring your friend or family member that you care about him or her

  • Offering to help your friend or family member with everyday tasks

  • Including your friend or family member in your plans—continue to invite him or her without being overbearing, even if your friend or family member resists your invitations

  • Educating other people so they understand the facts about mental health problems and do not discriminate

  • Treating people with mental health problems with respect, compassion, and empathy

How to Talk About Mental Health

Do you need help starting a conversation about mental health? Try leading with these questions and make sure to actively listen to your friend or family member’s response.

  • I’ve been worried about you. Can we talk about what you are experiencing? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?

  • What can I do to help you to talk about issues with your parents or someone else who is responsible and cares about you?

  • What else can I help you with?

  • I am someone who cares and wants to listen. What do you want me to know about how you are feeling?

  • Who or what has helped you deal with similar issues in the past?

  • Sometimes talking to someone who has dealt with a similar experience helps. Do you know of others who have experienced these types of problems who you can talk with?

  • It seems like you are going through a difficult time. How can I help you to find help?

  • How can I help you find more information about mental health problems?

  • I’m concerned about your safety. Have you thought about harming yourself or others?

When talking about mental health problems:

  • Know how to connect with people….There truly are people that care!!

  • Communicate in a straightforward manner

  • Speak at a level appropriate to a person’s age and development level (preschool children need fewer details as compared to teenagers)

  • Discuss the topic when and where the person feels safe and comfortable

    Watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if the person becomes confused or looks upset

Sometimes it is helpful to make a comparison to a physical illness. For example, many people get sick with a cold or the flu, but only a few get really sick with something serious like pneumonia. People who have a cold are usually able to do their normal activities. However, if they get pneumonia, they will have to take medicine and may have to go to the hospital.

Similarly, feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, irritability, or sleep problems are common for most people. However, when these feelings get very intense, last for a long period of time, and begin to interfere with school, work, and relationships, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. And just like people need to take medicine and get professional help for physical conditions, someone with a mental health problem may need to take medicine and/or participate in therapy in order to get better.

Get Help for Your Friend or Family Member

Seek immediate assistance if you think your friend or family member is in danger of harming themselves. You can call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

If you think your friend or family member is in need of community mental health services you can find help in your area.

For Educators

Educators are often the first to notice mental health problems. Here are some ways you can help students and their families.

What Educators Should Know

You should know:

  • The warning sign’s for mental health problems.

  • Whom to turn to, such as the principal, school nurse, school psychiatrist or psychologist, or school social worker, if you have questions or concerns about a student’s behavior.

  • How to access crisis support and other mental health services.

What Educators Should Look For in Student Behavior

Consult with a school counselor, nurse, or administrator and the student’s parents if you observe one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks

  • Seriously trying to harm oneself, or making plans to do so

  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing

  • Involvement in many fights or desire to badly hurt others

  • Severe out-of-control behavior that can hurt oneself or others

  • Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to make oneself lose weight

  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities

  • Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still that puts the student in physical danger or causes problems in the classroom

  • Repeated use of drugs or alcohol

  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships

  • Drastic changes in the student’s behavior or personality

What Educators Can Do in Classrooms and Schools

You can support the mental health of all students in your classroom and school, not just individual students who may exhibit behavioral issues.

Consider the following actions:

  • Educate staff, parents, and students on symptoms and help for mental health problems

  • Promote social and emotional competency and build resilience

  • Help ensure a positive, safe school environment

  • Teach and reinforce positive behaviors and decision-making

  • Encourage helping others

  • Encourage good physical health

  • Help ensure access to school-based mental health supports

Developing Effective School Mental Health Programs

Efforts to care for the emotional well-being of children and youth can extend beyond the classroom and into the entire school. School-based mental health programs can focus on promoting mental wellness, preventing mental health problems, and providing treatment.

Effective programs:

  • Promote the healthy social and emotional development of all children and youth

  • Recognize when young people are at risk for or are experiencing mental health problems

  • Identify how to intervene early and appropriately when there are problems


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