Children’s mental health should be a priority for parents

A panel from the Huntsman Institute of Mental Health talks to parents about mental health treatments and prevention for their children Thursday. (Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com)

Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes

Salt Lake City – Local experts teach parents the skills they need to help children with mental health issues.

“If your child… has a mental health problem, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a parent,” Amanda Miller, director of mediation services at Huntsman Institute of Mental Healthduring the facility’s second “community talk” held as part of Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

She said it’s important for parents to realize that mental health issues are an illness, and while environmental stressors can trigger them, biology plays a big role.

The virtual panel discussion aims to educate parents about things to watch for if children are having mental health issues, encourage them to talk to their children, limit electronic devices, and take mental health concerns seriously. It is also important to seek help when you need it.

Radha Moldover, who runs Teenscope South, a daily youth mental health treatment center, said children also experience mental health issues differently than adults.

For children, she said, depression doesn’t necessarily mean that they are sad more often — it can appear as irritable, irritable or more sensitive. Moldover said depression in children can be mistaken for mood swings in teens. She also indicated that children with attention deficit disorders are more likely to develop depression.

The treatment center at the Huntsman Institute of Mental Health, formerly the University Institute of Neuropsychiatry, provides parents with information about validation, including how to talk and listen to their children, while teaching children about emotion regulation and mindfulness skills.

She said there are plenty of online resources available to parents and their families, including apps, YouTube channels, and Locations. Moldover suggested using these resources if there was a wait and the child couldn’t see the therapist right away. Other members suggested community groups and school counselors.

Lindsay Wilson-Barlow, a child psychologist at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said that while there are plenty of resources available to help teens, just being there as a parent is a good place to start.

“Being there, you know, getting your child to see you as a resource and someone who cares and someone who can be present is the first step,” Wilson Barlow said.

She said that parents do not necessarily need to have extensive conversations with their children about mental issues, but that they should play games together or eat together. She also emphasized that children need to feel connected and community, and to have a balance between social media and interactions with friends and others.

Wilson Barlow suggested setting limits on internet and telephone time.

“In general, what we want to do is create balance,” she said.

Parents can set rules for electronic devices, and if situations change, they can change the rules and provide explanations for those changes, according to Kristen Francis, a child and adolescent psychologist who led Thursday’s panel discussion.

Francis said health officials see an “unprecedented need” for mental health services, and it is possible that the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented people from seeking mental health care while also potentially causing additional stress.

“Something of the epidemic that I’ve definitely seen is that more and more people are realizing that it’s OK not to be unwell, and they’re asking for help,” she said.

If there is a wait to see the provider, it is likely because the provider is trying to provide quality care to patients who have already committed to seeing them regularly.

The first community conversation – held last week – focused on SafeUT . App, which allows young people and some adults to text a mental health professional at any time. Thursday’s panel members suggested that parents should make sure the app is downloaded to their children’s phone before a problem arises.

“Even if you’re not in that place, it’s a good idea to introduce it to your child,” Wilson Barlow said.

The The ultimate community conversation, which will be publicly available, will include a panel of young people who share how they manage their mental health issues. The online presentation, “Healing Out Loud: Uncovering Mental Health Stigma,” will be held at 6 p.m. on May 19. More information can be found at health.utah.edu/hmhi.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers court and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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