I think there might be an issue. Now what?
Families may have questions, concerns, and even confusion about mental health issues. We hear rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide are on the rise, yet, we hear very little in the popular media about
these things are and
we can help our kids. The newest at-risk group is preteens and teens from affluent, educated families. This population of children are experiencing the highest rates of depression, suicide, substance abuse, anxiety, somatic complaints and general unhappiness of any group of children in the United States. This is very consistent with what we see in the Springboro City School District. This Newsletter will provide information on anxiety, depression, suicide, and steps to take to help your child. One of the first steps for us as parents is to not personalize what we are seeing. It is not uncommon for parents to question if they did something wrong or to question their parenting. While this is not uncommon, do you question yourself if your child gets a cold or the flu? It is important that you process your feelings first before talking to your child so that you can address the issues your child is presenting in the most positive/reassuring way possible.
Anxiety: Signs and Symptoms
Anxiety is extremely common among all of us. When we feel overwhelming stress and an inability to manage that stress, we may begin to worry constantly that things will not go right. For adults, this happens at work, home, and in our social situations. It’s the same for kids, however, kids are less equipped and have less experience in how to cope with stressful situations. Therefore, in our kids, the stress compounds, and add to that, social media, a drive for perfection in academics and sports, and many other facets of growing up (hormones, relationships), and our kids get very anxious. This is common and normal. You should be concerned, however, when your child’s stress tips over into the kind of anxiety that impacts their ability to function daily. When your child has a constant fear of what others think, what their grades are, how many followers they have on Instagram, whether they will make the team, and if these fears become so pervasive they cannot do anything else, it’s time to talk to them about anxiety. When anxiety becomes severe, kids might begin to have panic attacks. A panic attack is when the child’s brain gets “stuck” in “fight or flight” and they begin to feel the walls close in on them, they might have trouble breathing, they might have a severe emotional reaction (fits of crying, hyperactivity, or complete withdrawal). Ways to assist a child having a panic attack is to facilitate the change of focus. For example, ask them to look at something in the room, then back at you, then something in the room…shift their attention so that they can move from “flight” back into focus. You can have a child hold ice cubes in their hands, which also gets them unstuck and back into focus. Practice breathing with them. Both of you fill your lungs up with air, and hold for five seconds, then let the air out very slowly, like you’re releasing it through a straw. Do this three to five times. These are just a few ideas.
Depression: Signs and Symptoms
Depression is a mood disorder that impacts our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The word “depression” is often used incorrectly to describe someone who might be briefly sad (i.e. “she looks depressed”), but depression is a brain condition. When the brain uses up chemicals that we need to feel happiness and pleasure, we do not have the emotional force to experience these things on our own. Depression is not the person’s fault. It can occur as a result of many factors, including trauma, increased stress with reduced coping, pervasive grief, and heredity.
In teens, we may begin to notice the following:
● Consistent sadness, tearfulness
● Decreased interest in activities
● Changes in academics, social relationships
● Isolation, Agitation, Anger, Outbursts
● Low self-esteem, guilt, self-persecution, chronic negativity
● Sleep problems (too much, too little)
● Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, or vague physical complaints
●Being Irritable/angry more often
How To Help
f you notice these things in your child, the first step is to sit down with your child and take time to talk. Explore how your child is feeling and whether they feel safe to discuss this out loud. Provide them a safe space to do so, by telling them that brain health is the same as body health, as we are made up of one big system, and that we might to check into how the brain health is working. Second, if you suspect your child is depressed or anxious, take them to see a mental health counselor/therapist for a full assessment. Participate in your child’s therapy, healing, and coping. Learn what your child is supposed to do to help themselves. Practice coping skills with them, make them feel like your entire family is a team in their recovery! This will help the child feel as if this is normal, just like if they broke their arm during soccer practice. They need your practical and emotional support or make a full recovery. Third, listen to the feedback you are being given. At times our children/therapist tell us things we don't want to hear. Think about how you can handle the information given to you in a respectful way. Open communication without fear of judgement or repercussions is important and takes a lot of practice but is critical for success.
What If My Child Wants to Talk About Suicide?
Suicide is caused by a variety of factors. It’s a myth that singular problems, such as mental health issues, bullying, perfectionism, or grief, cause suicide. There are many of us that deal with these life stressors and we never consider suicide. So what is the difference between people who have life stressors, trauma, and other events that lead them down the path to suicide and those who do not consider taking their own lives? It’s a complex phenomenon called emotional pain. The various factors that drive someone to a suicide solution are facilitated by despair and, for children and teens, a lack of awareness about how to feel better. When a teen is thinking about suicide, they may not have the knowledge or the judgment to consider other options or resources, which is why making suicidal comments (“I should just die” or “I’m just going to kill myself”) is unfortunately a common way teens express their extreme frustration, sadness, disappointment, and despair.
Risk factors for suicide are:
● Multiple stressors that are overwhelming the student, and functioning is impaired
● Social problems- peers, social media
● Being in a high risk group where rejection can happen, such as being LGBTQI, traumatized (victims of abuse, neglect, bullying)
● Having a mental health disorder
● Severe self-pressure to perform. Sometimes this pressure is also administered in their environment (parents, teachers, coaches)
● Substance abuse (alcohol, drugs)
Warning signs for suicide are:
● The youth talks about suicide or posts cryptic posts on social media (“I won’t be here next week, so no homework for me this week!”)
● Stockpiling pills, trying to get access to a gun
● Increased agitation, or a sudden shift in mood
● Steep decline in social participation or other involvement (sports, activities)
● Previous suicide attempt
● Self-harm behavior
Do not hesitate: ASK. Asking your child directly if they are having thoughts of suicide is the BEST first step. It is a myth that if we ask a child about suicidal thoughts they will begin thinking about suicide if they have not already done so. In fact, if they’ve been keeping this deadly secret, they will be filled with relief that you are there, ready to help and save them. People who are suicidal do NOT want to die, especially teens, they just don’t want to live with the pain and despair anymore. Second, if your child tells you they are having thoughts and they have a PLAN to kill themselves, take them to get immediate help at the local ER. Some mental health centers or Children’s Hospital also have a child psychiatric emergency option. If your child is having thoughts, but really doesn’t want to die, they want to feel better but they don’t know how, make sure they have a safety plan with you, and get them into a mental health assessment as soon as possible. A safety plan is continuing to have an open and honest conversation about how the child is feeling on a daily basis, lovingly monitoring your child for increasing warning signs, providing them daily contact, support, encouragement, and rally support from the rest of the family. After the mental health assessment, a therapist will provide your child and family additional supports and coping mechanisms that you can all work on together.
Work With The School
If you identify that your child is struggling with a anxiety, depression or is talking about self-harm/suicide reach out to the school. Springboro City Schools want to partner with you to support your child. Mental health conditions are addressed daily in each building of the district. Working as a team helps to ensure progress at home and school. Often times the school is aware something is going on but if they don't know what, they can't be as effective in helping. As parents we want to protect our children. Schools also have to protect their students. The quicker both parties are on the same page, the quicker progress will happen. Your child's teachers/principals/counselors get to see a side of your child that you do not get to see, so their information is valuable to you and the therapist. We encourage communication from the therapist to the schools so that we can reinforce the learning that is taking place in therapy. The schools are not looking for any more information than to find out what supports can we put in place to help your child be successful with new coping mechanisms and strategies.
We asked our guidance counselors what were some of the places that our children have been referred to with success. Below is the list of some of the places that were recommended. We tried to add a variety of places to give you options depending upon the specific issues you might need further guidance/support.
Agape Counseling Center
(Counseling that also encompasses Spirituality)
175 S. Main Street
Centerville, OH 45458
Ruth Kauffold PHD
50 Greenwood Ln,
Springboro, OH 45066
*They conduct school based therapy if the family wishes and works with insurance and a sliding fee scale.
Ziza Psychotherapy and Consulting
3131 S. Dixie Drive
Dayton, OH 45439
* children / adults / families
Access Counseling Services
4464 South Dixie Hwy.
Middletown, OH 45005
Trauma specialist, AOD treatment, DBT skills, and they also have a Spanish speaking therapist
South Dayton Counseling Center
925 Congress Park Drive, Suite D
325 S. North Main St. Suite 200
Springboro, OH 45066
(Assorted counselors and teen girls group for skill building on Mondays)
1269 Colfax Ave.
Kettering, OH 45419
8401 Claude Thomas Rd., Suite 21F
Franklin, OH 45005
4380 Malsbary Rd.
Cincinnati, OH 45242-5644
Oak Tree Corner
2312 Far Hills Avenue
Dayton, OH 45419
Cancer Family Care
570 N. St. Rt. 741
Lebanon, OH 45036
Great overall resource for Mental Health:
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Warren County Chapter
P.O. Box 525
Lebanon, OH 45036
As always, if you need any more guidance, please feel free to reach out to Wendy Ford, Mental Health Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.