May is National Mental Health Awareness month. We have come a long way as a nation over the last couple of decades in how we view mental health issues, however, we still need to continue to improve the way people with a mental illness are viewed and treated.
Mental health is simply our emotional, mental, and spiritual health. It is just as important as our physical health. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand. It is important for us to realize that people of all ages, race, ethnicity, religion and incomes are diagnosed with mental health concerns. Nearly every person in America has either had mental health issues at one time in their life or has a close friend or family member who has had mental health issues at some point. The stigma around mental health needs to be broken. Mental health issues should be viewed no differently than physical health issues.
This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness month is Inspiring Resilience, Creating Hope. There is a great deal of research that has been done in recent years showing that resiliency acts as a buffer in all areas of a person’s life, including mental and emotional health. The good news is that resilience is something we are all born with and can be strengthened.
Last month’s blog spoke briefly about parental resilience as one of the protective factors that decreases abuse and neglect and promotes healthy family relationships. We defined it as the ability to cope with stresses; both the day-to-day stresses, as well as the occasional crisis. This is sometimes described as being a “bounce back” person or family. The same definition applies for resilience in children of all ages.
So, why is being resilient so important? The more resilient a person is the better day-to-day health they have in all areas of their life. Seventy percent of all people will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime. Resiliency helps people deal with the bumps of life, as well as the bigger stressors. It is a good idea to build resiliency before it is needed for a crisis.
There are a number of fairly simple things that adults can do to help promote resilience in children. The number one thing is relationships. Researchers agree that the primary building block for resilience is caring, supportive relationships. Adults can do this by responding to their children’s physical and emotional needs in a timely manner and with patience. Another easy way to build relationships is to have fun together. Schedule time every day to get down on the floor or go outside and play with your child.
Adults can also help promote resilience in children by listening and responding to their child in a reflective manner. When your child is talking to you give them your full attention and then make sure to state back to them what you heard them say and any emotions you believe they are experiencing. Then allow your child to confirm or clarify that you understand what they were saying and feeling. We all need to be heard and have our feelings supported.
As always, adults can use modeling. It is important for us to model the skills that lead to resilience for our children. We need to make sure our children see us engaging in supportive relationships, having fun and sharing our thoughts and feelings. These are just a few suggestions for building resilience that you can start working on today for yourself, with your children and in your family, which will lead to improved mental and emotional health.
For more suggestions on ways to build resilience, additional ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail stacy@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Check us out on Facebook at Families First Colorado. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.