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Mental Health Concerns

In this section, you will learn about some common mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression and self-harm. You will also find helpful suggestions from our Community Resource Team about how to develop strategies so you can best support your child and/or youth during difficult times.

Anxiety

The Community Resource Team (CRT) receives many texts/chats and calls about anxiety being experienced by their child and/or youth. Parents may experience their own anxiety as well, making it difficult to support their child/youth

Your relationship with your child will be your most important tool to help them get through any difficult situation. Make sure your child knows the relationship is always more important than their behavior. The following are suggestions from our CRT crisis counsellors to help you develop strategies so you can support your child while ensuring your relationship is bigger than the behaviour you may see from them.

Step back from your emotional reaction. Anxiety in children can be scary for a parent and you might see some upsetting behaviours; however, your child is looking to you for things to be ok. They will take cues from how you are responding.

This may be difficult. If you are not emotionally prepared to be a support, take a break in another room. Take a couple deep breaths. Return when you are ready.

Offer structured choices about how to handle the situation without allowing the young person to avoid the situation. Show that you will be there to support them with whichever one they choose.

E.g. If school is causing anxiety you may offer the option of taking the bus with the young person to school or driving them. But staying home will not be offered.

Remember these feelings are real for your child regardless of how illogical they may seem to you. Validating their feelings will be helpful for them.

E.g. If your child feels anxious about writing a test you might say “I know this is really hard for you, but we are going to get through this together. How about I help you study?”

Anxiety is not an excuse for negative behaviour or avoiding expectations.

Be there to help your child through anxiety provoking situations; alter tasks to help them be successful. Having appropriate expectations will actually help them overcome anxiety over time.

Remind children of what works, draw from past experiences where they were able to tackle their anxiety.

E.g. “You were anxious about school last week. I know how difficult it was for you, what helped you get through that?”

Identify triggers and take action beforehand if you can.

E.g. If new social situations are stressful for your child help them prepare by letting them know what they can expect and where they can go to calm down if they begin to feel overwhelmed..

You can read more about anxiety at Anxiety BC and receive further consultation with a CRT staff by phone, text or chat.

School Refusal

The Community Resource Team (CRT) is often contacted by parents regarding their child and/or youth not wanting to attend school. There are many reasons why a young person may refuse to attend school. Your relationship with your child will be your most important tool to help them get through any difficult situation. Make sure your child knows the relationship is always more important than their behaviour. The following are suggestions from our CRT crisis counsellors to help you develop strategies so you can support your child while ensuring your relationship is bigger than the behaviour you may see from them.

Step back from your emotional reaction. School is important to you, so it may be frustrating if they are not going; however, your child is looking to you for things to be ok. They will take cues from how you are responding.

This may be difficult. If you are not emotionally prepared to be a support, take a break in another room. Take a couple deep breaths. Return when you are ready.

Make school more appealing than being at home.

E.g. Manage your child’s time with electronics if they are meant to be in school. Internet may need to be turned off and TV/ game controllers may need to be taken away if your child is unable to manage these on their own.

Connect with the school.

E.g. Find out what the school can do to help support your youth. Schools can arrange to modify school work, where tests are taken, where a young person sits in class. Assessments when appropriate can be arranged, although this may take some time.

Address this issue early and be curious about 'why'

E.g. Be curious about what is going on for your child when you notice attendance changes. Is there something going on with a peer, do they find the work too difficult, are they bored? Reach out to the school and create an action plan to address these concerns.

Pick your battles and reinforce positive choices by acknowledging the effort your child has made, even if it seems small.

E.g. If your child has been out of school for awhile and they finally get to school, celebrate this success. If they were late for class that day, you might let that go in the short term and address it at a later time when they have begun attending more regularly.

Focus on strengths.

  • E.g. Placing emphasis on your child’s abilities, skills and knowledge will help to motivate them to participate in things they may not enjoy. If your child is a natural leader get their teacher to place them a leadership role in classroom activities.

Avoid catastrophizing statements.

  • Telling your young person they are never going to get a good job or be successful if they don’t go to school may increase their feelings of failure and decrease their motivation to attend.

You can read more about school refusal at Anxiety BC and receive further consultation with a CRT staff by phone, text or chat.

Self-Harm

The issue of self-harm comes to our Community Resource Team (CRT) staff on a regular basis by many concerned parents who are looking for support in helping their child/youth. This is a serious issue and it is important that parents reach out to professionals for support for their own well-being in addition to how best help their child/youth. Contacting your family doctor can be a good first step.

There are many reasons why a young person may self-harm. Your relationship with your child will be your most important tool to help them get through any difficult situation. Make sure your child knows the relationship is always more important than their behaviour. The following are suggestions from our CRT crisis counsellors to help you develop strategies so you can support your child while ensuring your relationship is bigger than the behaviour you may see from them.

Step back from your emotional reaction. Self-harm can be scary for parents. However, your child is looking to you for things to be ok. They will take cues from how you are responding.

This may be difficult. If you are not emotionally prepared to be a support, take a break in another room. Take a couple deep breaths. Return when you are ready.

Have a coping ‘tool box’ for your child when they feel like wanting to self-harm.

E.g. This could be metaphorical, or an actual box filled with helpful items. Drawing, listening to music, talking with friends, going for a walks, playing with pets, meditation and grounding exercises are just a few examples of coping skills. Do not be scared to try new ways of coping. Using coping skills along with your child may help them understand that handling their feelings can be done successfully.

Reinforce positive choices when they are made by your child not to self-harm.

E.g. Using coping strategies is hard for a child so it is important to acknowledge it when you see they are using them.

Be curious what is behind the self-harm. Youth self-harm for many reasons and this may not be related to thoughts of suicide. It is important to ask.

E.g. Your child is not doing this to hurt you. It important to ask what they are getting from the behaviour so you can understand how it can be replaced with more positive coping skills. Be careful not to be judgmental. Acknowledge their feelings regardless of what you may think.

Role modeling.

E.g. We all cope with stress differently so talk openly about how you cope with stress and difficult emotions. Do not be afraid to share your coping skills. Use coping skills with your kids, if they are resistant try taking deep breaths in front of them as they may begin to do this naturally without realizing it.

You can read more about self-harm at Here to Help, and receive further consultation with a CRT staff by phone, text or chat.

Bipolar Disorder

The Community Resource Team (CRT) is often contacted by parents regarding concerning behaviour they witness from their child and/or youth. Questions around mental health often come up in these instances, as parents try to make sense of what may be some extreme and concerning changes they are seeing. Drastic mood changes, outbursts resulting in property damage, promiscuity, excessive risk taking and substance abuse have been listed by some mental health professionals as possible links to Bipolar Disorder in young people. It is important to note however, that there are no formal diagnostic criteria for childhood or teenage Bipolar Disorder. It is rare and can be very easily misdiagnosed, as changes happen so rapidly during childhood and adolescence.  There are many reasons why a young person may be going through these changes and exhibiting these behaviours. It is important to explore all possibilities to find the best intervention for your child and family. 

Your relationship with your child will be your most important tool in helping them get through any difficult situation. Make sure your child knows you are here to support them. The following are suggestions from our CRT crisis counsellors to help you develop strategies so that you can support your child, while also ensuring your relationship is bigger than the behaviour you may see from them or struggles they may be experiencing.

Step back from your emotional reaction. Your child is looking to you for things to be ok. They will take cues from how you are responding.

This may be difficult. If you are not emotionally prepared to be a support, take a break in another room. Take a couple deep breaths. Return when you are ready.

Applying a mental health label to behaviours prematurely can be damaging, so speaking about your concerns with your young person should focus on behaviours rather than mental health labels.

It is important to talk with your young person about your concerns in a concrete way so that you can open up discussions without causing them to feel judged (e.g. “I am concerned that you have been throwing things when you are upset”).

Acknowledge and validate the young person’s feelings.  Be curious about what is behind their behaviours.

Validating a person’s feelings is an acknowledgement that those feelings are real for that person, even if you do not see their feelings as a logical or reasonable response to a situation. It is not an acceptance of the fault, reasons or solutions they have come up with for those feelings. You might say, “I can tell you have been struggling lately, I would like to talk about how things how things have been going for you.”

Don’t be afraid to discipline your child while they are struggling with their mental health. But do so with love, support and encouragement. 

The use of natural, logical and expected consequences will build healthy decision making and a sense of control in their lives. Using positive statements and positive consequences, rather than negative will help with this (e.g. “When you finish your homework you can have some video game time” rather than “No Games until you finish your homework.”)

Seek support from a mental health professional

If your young person is continuing to struggle, it may be time to get support from a mental health professional. A trip to your family doctor may be a good first step to get connected. Community Resource Team is also here to guide you in connecting with the proper supports. please feel free to call, text or chat in to discuss what options are available.

Depression

The Community Resource Team (CRT) receives many texts/chats and calls about their child and/or youth struggling with depression. Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and lowered feelings of self worth. While feeling sad can be a very normal response to difficult life events, it can be concerning if the sadness is persistent and interfering with your young person’s everyday life. Withdrawal from activities or friends, sudden drops in grades, isolating themselves, sleep disturbances, changes in eating habits, frequent and unexpected bouts of crying, irritability, aggression, drug/alcohol abuse may all be cause for concern; however, there could many reasons you are seeing these changes. It is important to keep an open mind about the reasons behind these behaviours so both and your child remain open to exploring all possible interventions.

Your relationship with your child will be your most important tool to help them get through any difficult situation. Make sure your child knows your relationship with them is always more important than the behavior or struggles they may have. The following are suggestions from our CRT crisis counsellors to help you develop strategies so that you can support your child, while also ensuring your relationship is bigger than the behaviour you may see from them.

Step back from your emotional reaction. Watching your young person struggle with depression or sadness may raise confusing and difficult emotions for you; however, your child is looking to you for things to be ok. They will take cues from how you are responding.

This may be difficult. If you are not emotionally prepared to be a support, take a break in another room. Take a couple deep breaths. Return when you are ready.

Don’t be afraid to discipline your child while they are struggling with depression. But do so with love, support and encouragement. 

Use of natural, logical and expected consequences will build healthy decision making and a sense of control in their lives. Using positive statements and positive consequences, rather than negative will help with this (e.g. “When you finish your homework you can have some video game time” rather than “No Games until you finish your homework.”)

Acknowledge and validate the young person’s feelings.

Be careful not to be judgmental or dismissive. We, as adults, may not see a young person’s stressors as stressful, but these feelings are real for the young person. Validating their emotions will allow your young person to better accept and then tackle them. You might say, “I can see this is really upsetting for you” rather than “Why are you so upset about this?”

Try not to force a child to be happy when they are not. Our first instinct as caregivers is to want our children to be happy; however, statements such as “I just want to see you happy” may inadvertently bring about feelings of guilt if your child is not happy. Acknowledge how they are feeling and allow them to feel it without trying to “cheer them up.”

Help your child build a feelings vocabulary. Being able to put words to how we feel helps us to better understand and manage our emotions (we are not born with this skill, we develop it!). It is important for children to be able to recognize their emotions so they can manage them. They will need help with this.

For children, posters and coloring pages that contain lists or drawings of various emotions can be helpful. Talking about what you see physically when your child is experiencing an emotion can also help. “I saw you start to cry when your friend took your toy. Were you sad when that happened?” Your child might say yes, they were sad, or they might tell you “No! I was mad!” This opens up a chance for you to talk about that with them (e.g. “Oh my mistake, sometimes when people cry they are sad. But this time when you cried you were mad”)

Encourage your child to engage in activities, but do not force them.

Suggest activities you know your child enjoys and suggest doing them together; however, if your child does not feel well enough to engage in activities, respect that feeling. Do not force, trick or bribe your child, as that will break down the relationship you have with them.

Seek support from a mental health professional.

If your young person is continuing to struggle with sadness, or if you suspect they might be experiencing depression, it may be time to get support from a mental health professional. A trip to your family doctor may a good first step to get connected. Our Community Resource Team (CRT) is also here to guide you in connecting with the proper supports. Please feel free to call, text or chat in to discuss what options are available.

You may be noticing some concerning changes in your young person that deserve attention and exploration; however, be careful to not label your young person or child with a specific mental health concern, as there could be a variety of reasons you are seeing these changes. Keeping your mind and your child’s mind open to these possibilities is important in order find appropriate interventions. A mental health professional will help with any diagnosis, if this is needed.

Be concrete about what you are seeing that is causing concern when you speak with your child about your concerns. For example, you might notice your child has stopped talking with friends or engaging in activities. Ask them about this. You might say, “I’ve noticed you haven’t been going out with your friends lately. And you are spending a lot of time alone in your room. Can we talk about how things have been going for you?”

If you are concerned your young person’s sadness has lead to thoughts of suicide, do not be afraid to ask directly about this.

Some people believe asking about thoughts of suicide can ‘put’ thoughts of suicide into someone’s head. The opposite is actually true. People experiencing thoughts of suicide often feel relieved when someone asks, as it makes it ok to talk about it. Be clear you are asking them about suicide. Using phrases such as “do you ever want to just not be here or go away” can have too many meanings and gives the impression that talking about suicide is not ok. If you need help with this, please call, text or chat into CRT.

Suicidal Ideation

The Community Resource Team (CRT) is often contacted by parents regarding their child and/or youth experiencing thoughts of suicide or suicidal ideation. There are many reasons why a young person may be having these thoughts, and it important to provide children and young people with a safe space to talk about these thoughts.

Your relationship with your child will be your most important tool in helping them get through any difficult situation. Make sure your child knows you are here to support them. The following are suggestions from our CRT crisis counsellors to help you develop strategies so that you can support your child, while also ensuring your relationship is bigger than the behaviour you may see from them or struggles they may be experiencing.

Step back from your emotional reaction. Young people experiencing thoughts of suicide can be scary for parents; however, your child is looking to you for things to be ok. They will take cues from how you are responding.

This may be difficult. If you are not emotionally prepared to be a support, take a break in another room. Take a couple deep breaths. Return when you are ready.

Have a coping ‘tool box’ for your child or young person for when they may be experiencing thoughts of suicide.

This could be metaphorical or an actual box filled with helpful items. Drawing, listening to music, talking with friends or family, going for a walks, playing with pets, meditation and grounding exercises are just a few examples of coping skills. Do not be scared to try new ways of coping. Using coping skills along with your child may help them understand that handling their feelings can be done successfully.

Do not be afraid to ask directly about suicide.

Some people believe asking about thoughts of suicide can ‘put’ thoughts of suicide into someone’s head. The opposite is actually true. People experiencing thoughts of suicide often feel relieved when someone asks, as it makes it ok to talk about it. Be clear you are asking them about suicide. Using phrases such as “do you ever want to just not be here or go away” can have too many meanings and gives the impression that talking about suicide is not ok. If you need help with this, please call, text or chat into CRT.

Be clear the young person is having thoughts of suicide and not simply making careless statements

It important to ask directly about thoughts of suicide and clarify comments they may have made. Some children or young people may say things like “I wish I was dead!” and may actually be trying to say they are mad or feeling overwhelmed. Giving time for the young person to calm down safely (Using their coping tool box!) and then having a calm conversation to clarify statements may be what is needed to give your young person the words they need to better express themselves. Regardless of their reasons for saying things like this, it must be understood these comments will always be explored to ensure their safety.

Acknowledge and validate the young person’s feelings.  Be curious about what is behind the thoughts of suicide. There are many reasons why a young person may struggle with thoughts of suicide, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have plans to end their life.

Validating a person’s feelings is an acknowledgement that those feelings are real for that person, even if you do not see their feelings as a logical or reasonable response to a situation. It is not an acceptance of the fault, reasons or solutions they have come up with for those feelings. You might say, “I can tell you have been struggling lately, I would like to talk about how things how things have been going for you.”

Ask the young person if they have a plan for how they would end their life. If a young person has a plan to end their life, it will need to be dismantled as best you can and they may need to be brought to the hospital. CRT is here to support with this conversation, as it can be a very difficult one for parents or caregivers to have.

You might struggle with knowing whether or not your young person needs to go to the hospital. If your young person is not in immediate danger, please call CRT or your local distress line to consult about this, as you may need help with this decision. A visit with CRT or to your family doctor or counsellor may be a better option.

Seek support from a mental health professional.

If your young person is continuing to struggle with thoughts of suicide, it might be time to get support from a mental health professional. The mental health system can be complicated to navigate and many people require help in connecting to the right support. A trip to your family doctor may be a good first step to get connected. CRT is also here to guide you in connecting with the proper supports. Please feel free to call, text or chat in to discuss what options are available.

Thoughts of suicide should not be used to escape responsibilities.

Young people may genuinely be struggling with thoughts of suicide. While we want to support young people in managing this distress, it should not be used to escape responsibilities such as school or chores. Once a young person has received support and is in a more calm space, expectations should be held. Children and young people thrive on structure and age appropriate responsibilities. Maintaining these (with support) will help your young person cope through difficulties.

**If, at any time, you know your child or young person is actively taking steps to end their life and is in immediate danger please call 911. Their safety should always be the priority and police and paramedics are there to help when needed.**