Tag Archives: mental health

Supporting Your Child’s Mental Health 

By Tracey Dowdy

Parents trying to work from home, teach their children, referee disputes, and keep everyone fed aren’t the only ones stressed out during this quarantined season. 

Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey polled over 800 U.S. teens, trying to get a sense of how they’re coping with the multitude of ways the coronavirus has impacted their lives, and how they’re staying connected. The results aren’t surprising – tweens and teens are stressed out and relying heavily on social media and texting to try to fill the gap that social distancing is having on us all. 

According to their poll: 

  • Ninety-five percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have had their classes canceled, 41% have had no school at all, and more than a quarter say it’s hard to find a place to study at home.
  • Teens not only fear that a loved one will become infected, but they also worry about the family’s finances, particularly Black and Latinx teens.
  • Roughly 40% feel “more lonely than usual” and bout the same number say they feel “about as lonely as usual” during this season. Parents may be surprised to hear these same teens say that social media and texting can’t replace close association and face to face interaction with friends.
  • One significant shift is that when compared to pre-pandemic times, more teens are going directly to news organizations for information rather than getting it second hand through family and friends. 
  • Unsurprisingly, tweens also report feeling stressed about school, family and friend’s wellbeing, and understanding what’s happening. 
  • Individuals who struggle with mental health report that their negative feelings are particularly heightened right now. 

So what’s a weary parent to do? Don’t despair – there are ways that you can support your child’s mental health that will provide them with the tools they need today, and that will equip them for challenges they face as they mature and become independent. 

  • One benefit that’s come from being quarantined is that teens report feeling more connected to family than ever. Read the hints they drop and invite them to watch a movie together, play a game, or play in the backyard. It doesn’t need to be structured or planned – look for spontaneous moments to connect. 
  • Right now, texting and social media are hyper-important to teens who’ve grown up with devices in the palm of their hands. If the need for discipline arises and reduced screen time was your go-to pre-quarantine, consider choosing another way to address the issue. With the level of isolation, your teen is already feeling, cutting off what social connection they have may exacerbate the problem.  
  • Because many of the teens report that social media and texting are a large part of their coping mechanism, consider allowing them to use your phone, tablet, or computer if the family is used to sharing. There are simple, secure, and effective ways to set parental controls, so you don’t need to worry about them changing settings or accessing private information. 
  • Create new routines to find your new normal. It’s unlikely that we’ll be back to normal soon, so build some structure into your days and nights. It can be as simple as setting up mealtimes, “packing” snacks for the day, scheduling FaceTime chats with grandparents, or determining “from nine to noon we do school work.” 
  • MyFridgeFood lets you plan a menu based on the foods you have on hand, so let your kids take over dinner one or two nights a week. If they’re little, allow them to look through the pantry and fridge for what’s available and help them search for a recipe. If they’re older, go one step further and have them cook. This isn’t just busy work – these are life skills that will take them far.
  • Anyone else celebrate a milestone during this quarantine? I had a birthday and my friend Leah had a baby. Students are missing their graduation, prom, recitals, and a myriad of other events. Reassure them you’ll celebrate once we get the all-clear – put a date on the calendar if that helps. Remind them this will end – countries who were impacted first are transitioning out of quarantine and someday soon-ish, we will too. 
  • Remind them of all the good that’s happening. Many people are recovering, charities are still being supported, and researchers around the world are working on a vaccine. Some of their favorite celebrities are doing what they can to encourage us. Some are reading bedtime stories on Instagram (@savewithstories), releasing new music, or just sending some positive vibes out there – check out Some Good News by John Krasinski, complete with a logo and background that was drawn by his daughters.

 The most important thing is to keep those lines of communication open. You know your child better than anyone and recognize when a meltdown is coming. Validate their feelings of unease and frustration – we all feel that way sometimes. Be open, be compassionate, and let them vent. You don’t have to solve the problem – you need to ride out the storm alongside them and reassure them you’ll be there, supporting them in any way you can.   

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Battling Depression? Apps Offer Guidance and Support

By Tracey Dowdy

Any time there is a celebrity death, whether as a result of an accident, disease or by the individual’s own hand, there is a media frenzy related to the cause. Too often these stories relate to substance abuse, but sometimes, equally as tragic, we find the person involved has battled mental health issues for years.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or Average Joe, the fact is depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders cross all socio-economic, ethnic, racial, and spiritual boundaries. Too often, individuals fail to get the help they need because they don’t know where to turn.

While it’s important for someone struggling with mental health issues to seek professional help, there are also a number of apps that can offer guidance and support:

Operation Reach Out

operation-reach-outOperation Reach Out was created with the specific intent of preventing suicides within the military. The app comes pre-loaded with phone numbers for suicide prevention hotlines, and users can customize the app to add a contact for someone to reach out to when they are in crisis. Although the app was created for military personnel and their families, it is a valuable resource for anyone. The app offers videos for the individual battling suicidal thoughts to help gain perspective on their problems and offering possible solutions. There are also videos for those trying to prevent a suicide with essential information such as what not to say, determining if the individual has overdosed, and helping them understand that help is available.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free

T2 Mood Tracker

t2-mood-tracker150Developed by the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology, T2 Mood Tracker allows you to monitor your mood for six different pre-loaded behavioral categories: anxiety, stress, depression, brain injury, post-traumatic stress, and general well-being. Users rate their mood by sliding a bar across the screen and results are displayed in an easy-to-read chart that tracks results over time. To make the charting even more effective, users can add notes about events or medication changes that may have impacted their mood on that day.

Platform: iOS. Android
Cost: Free

Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson

deep-sleepMental health experts agree a good night’s sleep is an invaluable resource in achieving and maintaining good mental health. Unfortunately, insomnia is often an issue and may even be a side effect of medication. DeepSleep is a guided meditation to help individuals turn off racing thoughts, relax, and fall asleep naturally. Suitable for beginners, the app allows you to set sleep and wake timers, and helps users slow racing thoughts and fall into a deep restful sleep.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: $2.99

DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach

dbt-diary-cardAlthough not intended to replace a mental health professional, DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is designed to help individuals with personality disorders. Developed by Duke University Medical Center, DBT Diary Card offers coaching resources, reinforces tools from therapy, allows users to add personal goals and send their diary directly to their DBT coach.

Platform: iTunes
Cost: $4.99

Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM)

self-help-anxietyDeveloped by a team of psychologists, computer scientists and student users, Self-Help for Anxiety Management combines established self-help methods with the support of a closed group of users. With 25 self-help options, an easy to read interface, user guides, and links to external resources, SAM is a great resource for individuals looking to manage their anxiety.

SAM can be used independently or in conjunction with work individuals are doing with their therapist. The app is intuitive in that you can tell it how anxious or worried you are and it will guide you step-by-step through methods to reduce your stress. Users can customize the app to create their own Anxiety Tool Kit as a ready resource for managing stress and anxiety.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free

The most important thing is that whether you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, help is available. Life is a journey and there will always be twists, turns and detours, sometimes even disasters. When those times come and life overwhelms, ask for help. If you don’t know where to start, MentalHealth.gov offers links for crisis and long term support.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.