This year has been an unbelievable year for all of us. Locally, nationally, and globally we have had to adapt to change in unprecedented ways. The change we experienced was difficult, especially for our children as they faced restrictions limiting their play, social and academic worlds. Parents had to adapt to working from home and schooling from home. All of this brings to the forefront the increased need for parents to be attuned to their child’s mental health.
This past year the CDC has seen a rise in anxiety and depressive disorders in our children and teens. (CDC.gov/healthyyouth/mental-health/index.htm) But how do we know when the moodiness we are seeing is a sign of something more? The American Academy of Pediatrics guide parents to look for signs such as declining grades, pulling away from activities, demonstrating fatigue or changes in energy levels, restlessness and changes in sleep, difficulty keeping worries under control, or experiencing unexplained aches and pains. (Healthychildren.org)
Checking in with your child is very important to help them transition through this difficult time. Staying connected and teaching our children how to stay connected are important protective factors that can help to increase their mental wellness. Finding a way to provide time to talk, exercise, eat healthy, do yoga, art, music, or hobbies are established activities that promote improved mood and healthy self-care life skills. Schools and community resources have also adapted to provide virtual activities for student clubs in efforts to help curb children’s social deficits.
What can we do when the signs linger despite our efforts to help? Calling your pediatrician to discuss concerns is an important first step, as they would be able to provide guidance, an assessment, and referrals counseling support if that is needed. If the signs suggest greater worries indicated by thoughts of suicide, running away, or engagement with substances, Common Ground can provide several resources for parents. Visit CommonGroundHelps.org/resources/youth-and-family/ for a list of support groups, counseling, and the national runaway hotline.
Families in need of immediate help to cope with a crisis can call the Resource and Crisis helpline/text/chat at 800-231-1127. Walk-in assessments and crisis intervention is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Resource and Crisis Center located at 1200 N. Telegraph, building 32E.
At Common Ground we recommend that parents encourage their teens to keep the Resource and Crisis Helpline number in their phone contacts. Even if your teen appears mentally well, this number can be available for them to call or text 24 hours/day. Or it also can be a resource your teen can provide to a friend in need.
If you are experiencing conflict and concerns of your teen running away, Common Ground has a safe Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter for ages 10-17 who are experiencing crisis called The Sanctuary, which can be reached through calling 248-547-2260. Youth at the shelter receive individual, family and group therapy, including clinical, expressive arts, and substance use prevention group support for up to 21 days with a goal of family reunification and securing safe and stable housing. Participants can continue with aftercare counseling and case management services for 3 months. The Sanctuary also offers community out-patient therapy for youth ages 10 through age 21 who are at risk of running away or are experiencing family conflict.
We have all experienced a remarkable year that has challenged us to navigate and cope with their mental health, but it has been especially challenging for our children. Staying connected to our children helps parents to recognize early signs of distress and provide intervention. When you require more support, Common Ground can be your access for resources.
Marie Murray, Counselor RHY Services