Did you know that 75% of mental health disorders develop before the age of 24? With this statistic in mind, it’s impossible to talk about Mental Health Awareness Month without addressing youth mental health and the primary importance of supporting mental health resilience early in life so that we can raise healthy and productive adults.

We know that children who struggle with mental, behavioral and emotional problems early in life often face complex challenges as adults including difficulties forming healthy relationships or finding and sustaining employment.  

Unfortunately, even as public awareness about mental health has grown in recent decades, struggling with a mental or behavioral health issue is still extremely isolating, and lack of public education, as well as social and financial barriers, can make it difficult for families to find the help they need for their children.

Children today are dealing with unprecedented pressures. Uncertainties about the future, school safety fears, too much screen time, lack of connection with others, and economic, societal and family stressors, all contribute to the current youth mental health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 5 kids have a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. In 2023, more than 2.7 million young people in the U.S. experienced severe depression—with more than half of them receiving no treatment, according to Mental Health America.

But building good mental health can start in the home. And, with education and tools, parents and caregivers can be their child’s most powerful supporters and advocates.

Building Good Mental Health

Children develop mental and emotional resilience starting in the womb from their attachment relationship with their mother. After birth, the reciprocal relationship between the primary caregiver and child – where a loving and nurturing parent is attuned and responsive to their child’s needs – is essential to their child’s emotional well-being and development.

As they get older, children need adults to help them name the emotions they’re feeling and understand how to process them.

Two key strategies for building good mental health in childhood include:

1. Practice active listening. – Parents can create an environment at home where their children can come to them and feel heard. Active listening involves listening without judgment or interruption so that a child feels safe talking about their concerns before they turn into larger problems. When parents truly hear their child, they can better help them navigate challenges and emotions, provide guidance and know when their child might need professional help.

2. Set the example with their own mental health. – Parents and caregivers are their child’s most influential role models. When parents model open communication, loving relationships, good self-care, and healthy habits (including limiting screen time), they set the example.

There are also many excellent resources that parents can learn from:

Visit the CDC, Child Mind Institute and Evergreen Psychotherapy Center websites for helpful materials.  

In addition, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry provides an expansive list of resources:

Certainly, access to mental health care is a significant continuing challenge in this country, but education and awareness can provide parents and caregivers with critical tools to help their children. To learn more about the services at Evergreen Psychotherapy Center, contact us at info@evergreenpsychotherapycenter.com.