Mental Health Week – Suicide and Your Children’s Stress – Do You Know the Signs?

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Image source: http://ella.paraguay.com/

BY MICHELLE SMITH 

Mental Health Week is May 2nd – 8th 2016. As your advocate, I just wanted to give you a little reminder that we all want to be healthy and happy. No one can be truly healthy without positive mental health. It involves how we feel, think, act and interact with the world around us. Mental health is about coping with the normal stresses of life and making a contribution to our community. Mental wellness is a topic of importance for me and for that matter let’s discuss it. Do you think suicide is preventable? Many factors and circumstances can contribute to someone’s decision to end his or her life. Find out how to recognize the warning signs and learn the importance of talking about suicide.

Approximately eleven people will end their lives by suicide today in Canada. Awareness is essential to changing this behaviour. Understand why people consider suicide and attempt to take their own lives

The Facts About Suicide: Suicide is preventable. Most people who attempt suicide want to live, but are overcome with emotional pain and cannot see any other way to handle a situation that may seem overwhelming and impossible to bear. Most people who die by suicide give definite warning signs of experiencing thoughts of suicide. This is one reason learning to recognize these signs and how to respond to them is so important. Talking about suicide does not cause someone to experience thoughts of suicide or increase the risk. Showing genuine concern by asking about suicide directly can be part of an immediate intervention. Four out of five people who die by suicide have made at least one previous attempt. Suicide occurs across all age, economic, social and ethnic boundaries. Males die by suicide three times as often as females. Three times more women than men attempt suicide.

Suicidal crisis are almost always temporary: Although it might seem as if your sadness will never end, it is important to realize that crisis are usually time-limited. Solutions are found, feelings change, unexpected positive events occur. Suicide is sometimes referred to as “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Don’t let suicide rob you of better times that will come your way when you allow more time to pass.

If you are a parent, take time out to understand the overall picture of your child, I know that as a mother, I myself am guilty at times of not looking at the bigger picture. This is very important for parents to understand. As a parent, you can’t protect your kids from stress, but you can help them develop healthy ways to cope with stress and solve everyday problems.

Kids deal with stress in both healthy and unhealthy ways. And while they may not initiate a conversation about what’s bothering them, they do want their parents to reach out and help them cope with their troubles. But it’s not always easy for parents to know what to do for a child who is feeling stressed. As a matter of fact, I still have to figure out ways to cope and manage situations that arise. The challenge will always remain the same. Learning how to cope with situations when they arise is the key. The ability to cope is a learned behaviour.

Quite often we say ‘end the stigma’ but I find that people don’t really understand what that really means. One simple step for all, is being aware of situations that may cause stress for others. By doing so you can continue the conversation by asking this question ‘How are you feeling right now?’ This gives the opportunity for an individual to reflect on how they are feeling which may help change their current feelings of distress.

These tips can be used interchangeably for any age. Remember, ‘you are a role model’ is not just a word. We can all learn better ways of coping here are eight steps just for you!

Notice out loud: Tell your child when you notice that something’s bothering him or her. If you can, name the feeling you think your child is experiencing. (“It seems like you’re still mad about what happened at the playground.”) This shouldn’t sound like an accusation (as in, “OK, what happened now? Are you still mad about that?”) or put a child on the spot. It’s just a casual observation that you’re interested in hearing more about your child’s concern. Be sympathetic and show you care and want to understand.

Listen to your child: Ask your child to tell you what’s wrong. Listen attentively and calmly, with interest, patience, openness and caring. Avoid any urge to judge, blame, lecture or say what you think your child should have done instead. The idea is to let your child’s concerns and feelings be heard. Try to get the whole story by asking questions like “And then what happened?” Take your time. And let your child take his or her time, too.

Comment briefly on the feelings you think your child was experiencing: For example, you might say “That must have been upsetting,” “No wonder you felt mad when they wouldn’t let you in the game,” or “That must have seemed unfair to you.” Doing this shows that you understand what your child felt, why and that you care. Feeling understood and listened to will help your child feel supported by you and that is especially important in times of stress.

Put a label on it: Many younger kids do not yet have words for their feelings. If your child seems angry or frustrated, use those words to help him or her learn to identify the emotions by name. Putting feelings into words helps kids communicate and develop emotional awareness and develop the ability to recognize their own emotional states. Kids who can do so are less likely to reach the behavioural boiling point where strong emotions come out through behaviours rather than communicated with words.

Help your child think of things to do: Conflict Resolution. If there’s a specific problem that’s causing stress, talk together about what to do. Encourage your child to think of a couple of ideas. You can start the brainstorming if necessary, but don’t do all the work. Your child’s active participation will build confidence. Support the good ideas and add to them as needed. Ask, “How do you think this will work?”

Listen and move on: Sometimes talking, listening and feeling understood is all that’s needed to help a child’s frustrations begin to melt away. Afterward, try changing the subject and moving on to something more positive and relaxing. Help your child think of something to do to feel better. Don’t give the problem more attention than it deserves.

Limit stress where possible: If certain situations are causing stress, see if there are ways to change things. For instance, if too many after school activities consistently cause homework stress, it might be necessary to limit activities to leave time and energy for homework.

Just be there: Kids don’t always feel like talking about what’s bothering them. Sometimes that’s OK. Let your kids know you’ll be there when they do feel like talking. Even when kids don’t want to talk, they usually don’t want parents to leave them alone. You can help your child feel better just by being there with them, spending time together. So if you notice that your child seems to be down in the dumps, stressed, or having a bad day, but doesn’t feel like talking, initiate something you can do together. Take a walk, watch a movie, shoot some hoops, or bake some cookies. Isn’t it nice to know that your presence really counts?

Be patient. As a parent, it hurts to see your child unhappy or stressed. But try to resist the urge to fix every problem. Instead, focus on helping your child, slowly but surely, grow into a good problem solver, a child who knows how to roll with life’s ups and downs, put feelings into words, calm down when needed and bounce back to try again.

Parents can’t solve every problem as their children go through life. But by teaching healthy coping strategies, you’ll prepare your children to manage the stresses that come in the future Self-esteem is more than just seeing your good qualities. It is being able to see all your abilities and weaknesses together, accepting them and doing your best with what you have.

Consider these key characteristics when assessing your own mental health:
Ability to enjoy life: Can you live in the moment and appreciate the “now”? Are you able to learn from the past and plan for the future without dwelling on things you can’t change or predict? Resilience: Are you able to bounce back from hard times? Can you manage the stress of a serious life event without losing your optimism and a sense of perspective? Balance: Are you able to juggle the many aspects of your life? Can you recognize when you might be devoting too much time to one aspect, at the expense of others? Are you able to make changes to restore balance when necessary? Self-actualization: Do you recognize and develop your strengths so that you can reach your full potential? Flexibility: Do you feel and express, a range of emotions? When problems arise, can you change your expectations of yourself, life or others to solve the problem and feel better?

Mental wellness is a core component to everyone’s health take a look in the mirror and ask yourself ‘How You Doin’. This has been watching out for your health.

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