Your Child’s Mental Health
One of the areas that is becoming a larger part of my role as Director of Student Support Services is supporting students with behaviour and mental health challenges. This is a growing area of need in all schools as it is now estimated that about one in five children and youth has a diagnosable mental health condition. Chances are, your family is currently dealing with mental health issues right now.
One of the greatest barriers facing those with mental health challenges is the stigma that continues to surround them, including amongst Christians. Many are embarrassed to disclose these weaknesses and as a result do not pursue support. My prayer is that we will feel safe to talk openly about mental health issues and that others will respond with compassion and love instead of judgement and rejection.
What are the signs that your child might be experiencing a mental health problem (such as anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder)? Be on the lookout for changes in the way your child is thinking, feeling, or behaving. According to Breanne Cousins-McGuire, a counsellor from the Counselling House, some indicators include:
- sleep disturbances (night mares, fear of going to sleep, waking up often, trouble falling asleep or sleeping more than usual)
- having ongoing negative thoughts and moods such as fear, guilt, sadness, shame, or confusion
- a loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed and spending more time alone
- having trouble concentrating, feeling angry or irritable (or having temper tantrums)
- being easily startled or constantly on the look-out for danger
- development of new fears or crying easily
- seeming dependent or clingy
- depression or anxiety
- general misbehaviour, attention seeking behaviour, or doing things that might be risky or dangerous
- poor school performance and/or attendance
- unexplained aches and pains
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, please talk to your child’s teacher or connect with me. You are also encouraged to make an appointment with your family doctor and seek out the support of a counsellor. We are blessed to have several wonderful Christian counsellors in the Woodstock area (e.g., The Counselling House and Tina J. Smith & Associates). Getting support is critical as early intervention helps improve academic performance and health outcomes. Let’s keep talking about mental health, and know that it’s okay to ask for help.