It’s tough to be a young person. As a parent or caregiver, there are ways you can support your child’s mental health, especially as back-to-school season kicks into gear.
It’s sad but true: Many children and adolescents need behavioral healthcare but don’t get it.
One of the biggest barriers to kids and teens getting help is the stigma associated with mental health care. Some people believe that asking for help means they are weak or there is something wrong with them.
“That’s definitely not the case,” said Marsheena Murray, PhD, a MetroHealth child psychologist. “With everything going on, everyone can use a little bit of help.”
To eliminate the stigma around behavioral health issues, Dr. Murray encouraged adults to reevaluate how they talk about mental health care and people who are struggling with mental health conditions.
For example, she recommended removing statements like “Oh, that’s crazy!” or, “What’s wrong with that person?” from your conversations.
“People really pick up on that,” Dr. Murray said.
How parents and caregivers can help
As a parent or caregiver of kids of teens, it’s important to know that the path to helping kids get mental health care begins with awareness. Take note of what is typical or atypical behavior for the loved one in your life.
“(You should be) looking around, paying attention, seeing what’s going on with this kid to know that things might be different, that they might be struggling,” she said. “Recognize what’s going on.”
Next, remember to practice good listening skills and don’t be judgmental to encourage honesty and openness.
“When you’re listening to what a teen is saying about what they’re experiencing, be open minded,” Dr. Murray said. “Be nonjudgmental. You want them to be able to share, and they might share things that you may not relate to as an adult, but just listen and be there and be present.”
Finally, be available so if kids and teens do need support, they are comfortable enough to come to you and ask for help.
“So many times, when people are having mental health issues, they don’t say anything,” Dr. Murray said. “They don’t share, so people around them may or may not know. Just being there and being available for them to talk and to listen (is important).”
How to access care for loved ones
Need help getting behavioral health services for a child or adolescent in your life?
If you have concerns, first talk with your child’s primary care provider. Our primary care providers work as a team with our behavioral health providers and can recommend the best steps for your family.
Get in touch with MetroHealth’s new Behavioral Health Hospital in Cleveland Heights by calling 216-778-3745 to speak with an intake specialist. This facility offers inpatient and outpatient care with a department dedicated to Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health. MetroHealth’s Child & Adolescent Services has psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists who are specialists in caring for children and adolescents under age 18.
Specialty services include the MetroHealth Autism Assessment Clinic, which evaluates children for autism spectrum disorders as young as 24 months, and Kids Pride, a clinic designed for transgender and gender diverse kids and teens.
The new MetroHealth Behavioral Health Hospital features 112 beds, modern patient environments, an outdoor recreational space to enrich treatment and dedicated spaces to group patients by age and need for the best healing environment.