Written in Partnership with In the City Camps
Despite increased awareness of mental illness among their caregivers, many children and teens are still struggling with untreated or undertreated mental health issues, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Approximately 14 percent of 10- to 19-year-olds currently are experiencing a mental health condition such as depression and/or anxiety.
Untreated mental illnesses can disrupt healthy adolescent development and affect mental and physical health. If left untreated, these challenges can extend into adulthood and become more severe and harder to treat.
Addressing mental health in your own home can feel overwhelming. But remember, there is always hope. In addition to professional care, here are five strategies parents and other caregivers can follow to proactively support a young person’s mental health:
- Physical movement
Encourage regular physical activity. Any kind of movement will do! It can increase neurotransmitters that fight anxiety and depression, and can be a great distraction from a cycle of unhelpful thinking. Ideally, the child should enjoy the activity chosen; this will increase the likelihood it will become a habit.
- Consistent sleep
Ensure the young person has a consistent sleep schedule (Covisus). When children and adolescents get enough sleep, their risk for physical and mental health challenges decreases. Children from 6 years old to 12 years old need nine to 12 hours of sleep each night, and teens aged 13 years to 18 years need between eight and 10 hours, per the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
- Limited technology
Limit the time a child spends using technology, especially in the evenings. Doing so fosters better sleep (an estimated 73 percent of teens don’t get enough sleep on school nights). In addition to limiting technology to aid in better sleep, engage in general conversations with your children around social media and appropriate usage.
- Managing emotions
Help the young person in your care learn how to manage and express their feelings. Set an example in your home by practicing active listening and open expression of emotion. The best way for your child to learn problem-solving strategies and skills is to watch you use them. Be open with your children (on an age-appropriate level), and encourage them to practice coping strategies on their own.
- Strong support system
Offer protection and support as needed, and surround your child with other safe, caring adults. Summer camps, synagogues and community centers are just a few options.
If a person of any age appears to be struggling, or if you are concerned about their mental health or safety, especially around suicidal thoughts, don’t shame them. It takes a lot of courage to talk about these feelings. Be a sounding board, and don’t hesitate to reach out to professional mental health resources when necessary.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, the following resources are always available:
- 988 – Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
- Call or text 988 for 24/7, free and confidential support (The previous Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.)
- Crisis Text Line
- Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor 24/7.
Remember, the Blue Dove Foundation is here to support you with our Jewish mental health resources.
The Blue Dove Foundation recently partnered with In the City Camps, to talk about important issues related to raising mentally healthy children and fostering mental wellness within our children. We hope you find them as helpful and impactful as we do.