Category Children’s Mental Health

Taking Suicide Prevention Upstream

Across the country, school districts are providing mental health awareness and suicide prevention training for teachers and school personnel. Some are mandated or encouraged to do so by state law, others are motivated by recent incidents, and some introduce this kind of education because suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24.

Teacher and parent training are key components in any plan to address teen suicide. Increasingly, however, communities are recognizing that kids need to learn about mental health, too. Social and emotional learning across the lifespan reduces risk factors and promotes protection factors for violence, substance abuse, negative health outcomes, and suicide. One way to provide universal student training is by including a mental health component in the standard wellness or health curriculum. School districts and individual schools can implement individual, more targeted programs as well.

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iFred Provides “Schools for Hope” for Kids’ Emotional Health

Kathryn Goetzke, Founder, International Foundation For Research and Education on Depression

A new school year brings a flurry of activity with the return to early morning alarm clocks, class schedules, new teachers, and a renewed connection with peers after summer break. Homework returns and many extracurricular activities are back in full swing. It can be an exciting time to see friends and share summer stories. But for some children, the school year may elicit feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and sadness. Left unrecognized, these feelings can lead to a decline in a child’s emotional wellness, relationships with family and friends, and academic performance. In some circumstances, the consequences can be devastating.

That is why children need to learn from an early age how to care for their emotional health, just as they learn academic skills, as each will help prepare them for success and happiness in life. The importance of always having hope is a vital component to mental health across age groups. Hope has been found to correspond with greater emotional and psychological well-being, enhanced personal relationships, and greater academic performance with published research suggesting hope is a skill that can be taught.

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Suicide, Stigma, and the Role of Religious Faith

Matthew S. Stanford, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biomedical Studies, Baylor University

We acknowledge the collaboration of American Association of Pastoral Counselors in developing this post.

Throughout history, suicide has frequently been misunderstood and religion has played a significant role in adding to its stigma. Sadly, due to misinformation that typically dates back to Biblical teachings, many Christians consider suicide to be an unforgivable sin. But demonizing suicide is outdated and ignores the real cause: mental illness.

It’s time for religious communities to play a pivotal role in addressing this nation’s mental health crisis and many are rising to the challenge. Congregation by congregation, attitudes are evolving.

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Preventing Depression in Vulnerable Youth: To Prevent Suicides, We Need to Do More

In order to reverse the trend in youth and adolescent suicide rates, we need to implement effective interventions to prevent depression. Though that remains a challenge for the population as a whole, there are vulnerable subgroups – including socioeconomically disadvantaged, sexual minority, and racial and ethnic minority youth – for whom it is not clear that common preventive interventions are effective. There is a reason we don’t know this: we’re not doing enough to find out.

Last week, Dr. Donna Holland Barnes discussed the horrific upward trend of suicide rates among very young Black males, ages 5-11. We know that one of the key strategies in preventing youth depression and depression symptoms–often precursors to suicidal ideation–is to use early interventions that help to develop resilience, coping and communication skills, and capacity for emotional expression. Dr. Barnes notes that there are some excellent programs for introducing coping mechanisms but, unfortunately, funding and access limit their implementation in schools.

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Why Are Children Taking Their Own Lives? What Can We Do?

Donna Holland Barnes, PhD

Donna Holland Barnes, PhD
President/Co-Founder, National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide
Howard University, Department of Psychiatry

Suicide is a painful and sensitive topic under any condition, but it becomes exponentially more so when we’re talking about the most vulnerable members of our society: children.

A recent study entitled “Suicide Trends Among Elementary School Aged Children in the United States,” published in JAMA Pediatrics, showed that the suicide rate among Black males between the ages of 5 to 11 has nearly doubled in the last two decades.

This is a shockingly young age bracket. While we know little about why these children are taking their own lives, we can only guess that there is a disconnect somewhere.  So where do we begin to address such a tragic and complicated issue?

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How You Can Educate Local and State Officials to Increase School Mental Health Services

Kelly Vaillancourt, PhD, NCSP
Director of Government Relations, National Association of School Psychologists

Last week, Kelly Vaillancourt provided an easy way for you to advocate to members of Congress about providing mental health services in schools. Now, she offers some ideas about how you can effectively interact with local and state officials in order to make meaningful and substantial progress toward increasing access to comprehensive mental health services. Dr. Vaillancourt is director of government relations at the National Association of School Psychologists, which represents over 25,000 school psychologists. These professionals work with students, educators, administrators, and families to support the academic achievement, positive behavior, and mental health of all students, especially those who struggle with barriers to learning. Your voice is critical in helping ensure that all children, youth, and adults have access to the mental and behavioral health services they need and there are many quick and easy ways that you can be an effective advocate. Here, we focus on the ways you can educate and advocate at the local and state levels.

Educate School Boards about Comprehensive Mental Health Supports

  • Identify your local school board members. Review facts about them including involvement in education and with other community organizations. Furthermore, educate yourself on the jurisdiction the school board has over local policy and budget decisions as this can vary across districts and states.

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National Association of School Psychologists Issues Call to Action

Kelly Vaillancourt, PhD, NCSP
Director of Government Relations, National Association of School Psychologists

Recently on Care for Your Mind, Dr. Anne Marie Albano contended that schools are the right place for kids to get treatment for social anxiety disorder. Today, Kelly Vaillancourt of the National Association of School Psychologists offers an easy way for you to advocate for school-based psychological services.

In order to make meaningful and substantial progress toward increasing access to comprehensive mental health services, we must call upon our local, state, and federal policy makers to act. We need to

  • educate legislators and government officials about evidence-based policies and practices
  • encourage them to allocate the necessary funding to ensure these practices are in places in our schools and communities.

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How Can You Find The Right Provider to Treat Social Anxiety Disorder?

Lori Blumenstein-Bott, MSW, LMSW
Executive Director, The Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety

Finding a provider to treat social anxiety disorder can be a challenge, especially because so many people—mental health professionals included—do not know how to diagnose or treat it. Ms. Blumentstein-Bott shares tips from the Andrew Kukes Foundation to help people living with social anxiety disorder and their families effectively exercise their right to an appropriate provider.

One in eight people lives with social anxiety disorder. As the third most-common mental health condition, it’s everywhere, yet greatly misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mistreated. But there is help. And with access to the right treatment, individuals can expect to lead quality lives. However, lack of basic awareness and understanding about the disorder presents a major barrier to quality care. Addressing this challenge begins with getting essential information into the hands of the right people:  individuals living with social anxiety disorder, teachers, parents, and health professionals.

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