For many of us, discussions and awareness surrounding mental health have only started to emerge throughout the last decade or so.
Given the current pandemic, cases of mental illnesses have escalated; likely due to social isolation, financial loss, and lack of childcare. Mental Health Research Canada found that the self-reported rates of depression have more than doubled from prior to the pandemic to the end of April 2020.
With 1 in 5 Canadians experiencing a mental health problem or illness in any given year, it is important to create an open dialogue about mental wellness within our households.
We believe that we should prioritize mental health to the same extent we do physical health. Unfortunately, there is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness which prevents people from reaching out for help when they need it. To move forward and to ensure our future generation does not experience the same misunderstanding and unanswered questions that we may have had growing up, we have outlined some points on mental health that can be shared with a child in your life.
MENTAL HEALTH vs. MENTAL ILLNESS
These are terms we typically see being used interchangeably, however; they do not share the same meaning.
EVERYONE HAS MENTAL HEALTH
BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS A BRAIN!
Our brain controls
- our emotions
- our thoughts
- our feelings
- our ability to solve problems
- our ability to overcome difficulties
- our social connections
- our understanding of the world around us
Sometimes our brains struggle with our mental well-being (having days where we feel stressed, overwhelmed, or down), just like our body does with our physical well-being at times (like when we catch a cold).
HAPPY PEOPLE AREN'T ALWAYS HAPPY
AND SAD PEOPLE AREN’T ALWAYS SAD
Like we said before, everyone has mental health – just like everyone has physical health. Sometimes our tummies hurt and we don’t know why and sometimes we’re sad and we don’t know why. It doesn’t mean that our tummy will always hurt and it doesn’t mean we will always be sad.
Learning how to ask for help when we are sad or hurt is important to make sure we are healthy all over.
THERE ARE DOCTORS FOR YOUR BRAIN TOO!
Mental illness can get better! With help from treatments such as medicines and therapies, symptoms of mental illness can be effectively managed.
Remember: Mental illness is more common than we may think and it is nothing to be ashamed of!
FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
MENTAL ILLNESS CAN IMPACT:
- the way we think
- the way we feel
- the way we act
- the way we interact with others
MENTAL ILLNESS CAN BE CAUSED BY:
- chemical imbalances in the brain
- life experiences (a traumatic event)
- feeling lonely or stressed
- using drugs or alcohol
HOW CAN YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY
Our physical health and our mental health are connected – so we have to take care of both!
These will help you with your everywhere health:
- Regular exercise
- Consistent sleep routine (8 hours a night)
- Balanced eating (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein)
TALK ABOUT IT
Tell someone you trust why you are feeling bad. Sometimes saying it out loud makes it become real, and helps us accept our emotions. Having someone listen to us and emphasize with us can make us feel better. Once we get out all our concerns, there is a sense of relief and we can make realistic decisions on how to move forward.
Creative expression is vital to our development and growth. Outlets such as music, art, and physical talents through performing arts give us a break from the seriousness of the real world and allow us to get lost in imagination – an enjoyable way to process our emotions and to help us make sense of our world.
Independent and cooperative playing enhances learning and behaviour and can promote feelings of joy and excitement. It allows us to communicate in a way we may not be able to in the ‘real world’. Play time can increase social skills and lets us practice making choices/problem-solving (creating the personalities of the characters, the rules of the game, how to overcome an obstacle in the way- physical or emotional)!
Vector illustrations by vecteezy.com
WHAT ADULTS CAN DO TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT TO SUPPORT GOOD MENTAL HEALTH IN CHILDREN:
Pay attention to language the younger people are using and correct it as necessary.
Intervene when you hear inappropriate terminology and presumptions surrounding mental illness.
Use the opportunity to explain why such statements are harmful and what they can say instead.
“A person isn’t bipolar, they have bipolar disorder. Their mental illness does not define them, it is just a part of what make them who they are.”
Intervene when you hear them using negative self-talk.
I’m a loser
There’s no point
I’m too ugly
Identify what is truly bothering them to make them say such statements and separate that problem from their own self-worth.
“Just because Sally covers up her freckles it doesn’t mean they are not beautiful.”
Ask open-ended questions to get them used to talking about their problems and feelings.
I’ve noticed you’re in your room a lot…what is going on?
You seem down today, did something happen that is bothering you?
How can I help?
What can we do to make you feel better?
Parents are sometimes the last people children want to confide in.
If they come to you to talk, don’t shut them down or brush them off.
Listen without judgment, validate their feelings, and be present to show them you care and builds trust.
Set the example.
When you practice the activities that improve mental health, you will normalize them for the younger ones watching you.
Make a conscious effort to name feelings, display healthy relationships, and demonstrate how to problem solve.
Apologize when you are wrong.
When referring to your appearance, abilities, and those of others, use language that is kind.
Do not be so hard on yourself when you make a mistake, because they will make mistakes too and need to know it is okay.