Mental health is a growing medical and social issue that's affecting millions of Americans. In fact, according to research collected by Mental Health America in 2017, 18 percent of adults have a mental health condition — equivalent to roughly 43 million Americans — and in the last five years, rates of youth depression have increased from 5.9 percent to 8.2 percent.
So what can you do to ensure your kids remain mentally stable and are well informed? As parents, kids are prone to looking to you for inspiration, so leading by example is often the quickest and most effective way to help your children. Whether it's how you act, what you say or just your everyday schedule, there are a few things you can do to give your kids the best setting in regards to mental health. Let's take a look at a few quick tips.
1. Demonstrate a Positive Outlook and Key Life Skills
A key part of mental health is the bad habits that an individual can fall into from repetition. Start shaping your child's state of mind and attitude toward the world by having a positive attitude toward situations yourself. Instead of constantly complaining around them or repeatedly mentioning how tired or stressed you are, repeat the good things in life such as a home, food and family. This will help train your kid to look at the glass half full.
It's also a good idea to demonstrate some key life skills that could help them battle dark thoughts or feelings of instability. Highlight the importance of good social skills, conflict resolution and being able to solve problems by utilizing these skills in your own life, and ensuring your children are around to see how it's done.
2. Commit to Regular Physical Activity
Exercise and physical activity have a direct relationship with your mind — by releasing necessary endorphins, exercise can assist in battling negative thoughts and lethargic behavior that leads to different forms of mental illnesses. The best way to show the importance of regular exercise is to do it yourself and to show that it can be fun and fit easily into everyday life. If you approach exercise with a positive attitude and demonstrate that it's something to get excited about, most likely your kids will grow up with the same mentality, rather than viewing it as a chore. You could always just make it part of their everyday schedule by signing them up for a sports team or dance classes. Try to encourage group activity as this is great for self-esteem and social skills.
3. Encourage Education and Awareness
For many years, mental health has had a somewhat 'taboo' in which people are afraid to discuss their issues. This can often lead to conditions getting worse for mental health patients. To avoid your child hiding their own feelings or trying to avoid dealing with any issues they suffer from now or in the future, encourage open discussion and acceptance. Check in with your child on a regular basis and get them in the habit of being expressive about what's going in their life and how they feel about it. Making them aware of various mental illnesses can also be a great idea, so they are aware it's normal and able to fight it, should they ever notice symptoms.
Mental health can be a scary thing to think about when it comes to your children. However, if you start demonstrating a positive outlook and provide your child with the tools to fight it, the likelihood of them suffering from a mental illness decreases.
Naomi Bagga is a young Australian native living in Los Angeles. She has worked in television, media, marketing and sales, and is passionate about music, entertainment, writing, entrepreneurship and the changing media landscape. In her spare time, Naomi loves photography, fashion, travel and a good cup of coffee.