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In recent weeks, the topic of mental health has come to the forefront of media attention. The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain came as a shock to many. From an outside perspective, it seemed as though they had it all.. But that’s just it, we’re all on the outside looking in to another person. We never truly know what’s going on in the mind of another individual. Unfortunately, that’s something that we will never be able to achieve. However, what we can strive to achieve is a society where we can openly talk about the state of our mental health.
Currently, there is a stigma associated with mental health that makes people feel that they can’t vocalize their experience when struggling with their mental well-being. How do we begin to tackle this stigma? We start with awareness and we start with our kids. When we introduce the concept of self care and open communication at a young age it will supercede into adulthood. This rings even more true for adolescents (and their families) who are living with mental illness. Let’s explore three tips to promote positive mental health practices:
Take advantage of free online health resources to learn more about mental health. The most common mental health issues among youth are: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Depression, Suicide. It may seem cliche, but knowledge is power. Even if you are not personally affected by mental illness, the more you know, the more equipped you are to understand someone who is. When you feel like no one understand what you’re going through or what you’re feeling, you tend to to keep it to yourself. Isolation is dangerous when diagnosed with a mental illness. From siblings to classmates, productively navigating conversations is vital. Feel confident when asking someone how they are feeling, and know how to respond if the answer is, “not well.”
Often times, expressive therapy is used to help kids express their feelings when they’re too hard to articulate with words. Art, music, and dance are forms of creative expression that help people process and cope with emotional issues. Drawing is a great way to portray images that represent thoughts and emotions on paper. It allows you to show your emotions rather than speak them. Relating to music can allow for a sense of camaraderie and mutual feeling in the music. Music therapy can include singing, listening to music, playing an instrument or even songwriting.Dance allows people to express themselves through movement, which can aid in improving both mental and physical health.
No matter the avenue, lead by example and encourage a “creative hour” where all members of the family partake in expressing their feelings creatively. It will make a child feel more comfortable and allow them to see that everyone has an expressive outlet. This will also teach kids to express themselves even if they don’t share it with anyone. It’s a form of release that will prevent feelings from remaining internalized.
One of the most important aspects of self care is is your physical health. Beginning to incorporate regular exercise into a child’s regular routine will make it easier for them to value exercise time as they get older. Experts say that physical activity allows children to have a better outlook on life. It allows them to build confidence, manage anxiety and depressing all while increasing self-esteem and cognitive skills. Find an activity the entire family can partake in. Going to the park, riding bikes, playing catch are all great examples of small activities that can encourage playful part of your every day routine.
When kids see their peers, and people they look up to going outside and moving, it further amplifies the desire to participate. Even if it’s just for a half an hour a day, the more physical activity kids in engage in, the better they’ll feel. It’s an added bonus when the entire family participates. It’s a great opportunity to disconnect and just be in the moment!