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Child & Youth Mental Health Awareness

On June 10, 2021 I became a Certified Youth Mental Health First Aider. I had to attend two 4-hour classes at night, and also take a test to pass the course. Dr. Kella Price, former USOA Mrs. Arizona and state Director was offering this course to any 2021 state contestants. She was also facilitating the course. I immediately reached out to her when I saw her post. As someone who has battled depression and anxiety, I wanted the opportunity to learn how to be a support system for youth, and even adults since so many symptoms mirror each other in youth and adults. A Mental Health First Aider is taught how to recognize the signs and symptoms that suggest a potential mental health or substance use challenge; being able to give initial support to someone who may experience this challenge and provide them the resources they need.

Earlier this year I shared a blog about my experiences with anxiety and depression. There are so many stigmas and misconceptions when it comes to mental health. One being the association of being “crazy” with mental illness, or that you don’t need therapy to figure out your problems. The most difficult hardship about suffering from a mental illness is that you feel alone. You’re not comfortable talking with anyone, not even those closest to you because of these stigmas. A lot of mental health problems are usually developed as a child, and it is important to know the signs and to get help needed as soon as possible. So, it's important to have open conversations with children, and not assume that their behavior is normal.

I wanted to share some examples of typical behavior versus potential warning signs to look out for in youth. This information was found in the “Mental Health First Aid USA Manual For Adults Assisting Children and Youth.”

Typical Behaviors vs. What to Watch Out For

Typical Adolescent Behavior

  • Withdrawing from family to spend more time with friends.

  • Occasionally losing temper when things do not go their way.

  • Moving from childhood likes to teen pursuits.

  • Sometimes struggles to complete an undesired risk.

Potential Warning Signs

  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and social activity.

  • Frequently argues with adults and/or purposely breaks rules; displays aggressive behavior.

  • Losing interest in favorite activities and not replacing with other pursuits.

  • Difficulty remaining focused and maintaining concentration across a variety of tasks and settings.

As adults, the pandemic has really impacted us all, positively and negatively. We all had to literally change the life and lifestyle we all were accustomed to overnight. None of us had ever experienced anything like this, so trying to explain it to children was very difficult. The day-to-day interactions that they were used to, were taken away. Suddenly, the only way to see friends was virtually, and learning became virtual as well. All school activities ended, and anxiety was high for everyone. Despite kids going back to school, the anxiety felt from over the last year and a half still looms for so many kids. This is why it's so important to recognize any potential warning signs and get children and youth the help they need now while it can be managed. The saying is true for both children and adults, that “it is okay to not be okay.” Getting the help that is needed can ultimately make you okay!

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