How parents can spot mental health issues in their children

How parents can spot mental health issues
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 6:52 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The number of high-profile athletes talking openly about mental health struggles has helped reduce the stigma around the issues, but experts said parents still need to watch for changes rather than wait for their child to open up.

Jennifer Cronkite, an outreach prevention therapist, said since the pandemic started, students are struggling to balance their responsibilities. That’s causing more students in Mid-Michigan to become depressed, anxious and stressed than ever before.

One sign a child or teen might be struggling with depression is if they no longer want to participate in activities.

“We are talking about young people who are not participating in any of their activities anymore. Young people who are completely pulling away from their friends -- as well as their family and loved ones, their neighbors and communities,” Cronkite said. “These changes that will tell us this is not a young person just growing and developing in new ways, but this is a young person who might be struggling. "

Cronkite warns this type of behavior can lead to suicide. While suicide rates in Mid-Michigan have slightly declined in the past year, Cronkite said more young African American men are taking their own lives. She said the best way to combat this problem is to get involved.

“We can’t devalue their thoughts. We have to listen and take very serious about anything that sounds like a young person might be at risk,” Cronkite said. “So the more community gatekeepers we have trained in suicide prevention models, the safer happier our community is going to be”

She suggests parents and children both consider local prevention training classes. She also recommends meditation and allowing children and teens to experiment with new hobbies.

“It’s about figuring out what makes you happy and putting your time effort and energy into the things that really do bring you that sense of wellbeing and support your mental health,” Cronkite said. “And figuring out what you can let go of and recognizing it’s okay to let go of things.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers anonymous assistance and support without judgement. It can be reached 24/7 at 800-273-8255.

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