Overcoming the stigma around mental health, addiction as students return to the classroom

Almost one in five adults live with a mental illness and one in five children between the ages of 13 and 18 have or will.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – If you’re struggling with mental health issues, you’re not alone. Nearly one in five adults lives with a mental illness, and one in five children between the ages of 13 and 18 has or will have a serious mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Also, substance use disorders and other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, sometimes occur together, but it does not mean that one caused the other.

As students head back to school for the 2022-2023 school year, 10TV sat down with Dr. Ameena Kemavor, vice president of advocacy and engagement for the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board, to discuss how parents can address mental health issues. health problems in children to try to avoid substance abuse.

Kiona Dyches: As a parent or carer, what is the first step you should take to protect your child’s mental health?

Dr. Kemavor: “We want to think about the home properly, so our environment is something we absorb, and what we absorb eventually comes out of us. And so being able to model health and wellness in the home is key.”

Dyches: How can you help your child who may have mental health issues when they go back to school?

Dr. Kemavor: “If you find that your child is challenged in their ability to live and laugh and love, then there may be some underlying things, you know, going on. First, you should communicate with your child .regularly, you know, to and from school, extracurricular activities, learning to have difficult conversations you know about things that might be going on in your child’s life, staying in touch with their teachers, their education, the staff, their coaches.”

Dyches: What kinds of behaviors will let you know your child has a mental health problem?

Dr Kemavor: “Behaviors could look like eating more or less than before, sleeping more or less than before, possible changes in behavior at home or at school, such as in the classroom, changes in academic performance, changes with extracurricular sports, etc. even some mood swings or outbursts. And especially if your child starts to withdraw socially from their friends or activities and isolate themselves, that would be a cause for concern.”

Dyches: How do you know when it’s time to ask a professional for help?

Dr. Kemavor: “With all this living and laughing and loving, it’s so important to trust your instincts. You know your child, so watch how they live in their world. You know, what can they be. Happening right now?” Have they recently experienced a loss? Are they processing a breakup? Are they processing a friendship that maybe, you know, didn’t go the way they planned? And we also want to make sure that if there’s a history of mental illness in our families, then we want make sure we recognize that too.”

Dyches: What should you do if your child appears to have misused substances to cope with mental health challenges?

Dr. Kemavor: “Just breathe. First, pace yourself and process what you suspect is really going on and do some of these observational key checks. You know, what is your child experiencing in their life right now? a genetic factor that may be contributing to this suspected use?And also, if you choose to approach your child, do so from an open, non-judgmental, non-blaming lens, we want the best possible outcome for that specifically. conversation.”

Dyches: Are some people more vulnerable when it comes to mental health and substance abuse problems?

Dr Kemavor: “Mental illnesses can start to show in early childhood, as well as in the very formative teenage years, especially in the age group of around 18 to 25. But instead of being more prescriptive exactly what I know, age, my child is that he may have a mental illness or, you know, be involved in substance use, it’s really again that lens of observation, like paying attention to how your child responds to your real environment. Mental illness and addiction. it doesn’t discriminate. So no one gets away with it, right? This is something that can happen to any of us at some point in our lives, it really just depends on a number of factors that may not be related to genetics. or environment, could be what we’re exposed to, that we didn’t know would have such an impact on us. And then things take a different turn.

10TV has partnered with the Opioid Alliance to help “beat the stigma” surrounding mental health and addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or addiction or want to learn more about the stigma surrounding them, visit beatthestigma.org for more information.

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