With the recent passing of well-known figures Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, mental health advocates are busier than ever in raising awareness about depression and breaking negative stigma about mental illnesses.
On a very timely and hopeful note, however, the country’s first Mental Health bill has just been signed into law (hurray!), and while there is still limited info regarding its implementation, we can be assured that this will only mean more affordable and accessible mental health services for Filipinos.
With that said, how can you, dear parents, safeguard your child’s mental health if the signs aren’t always obvious?
Here are some of the ways you can be their first support system when they need one:
- Stay observant, but not intrusive – It makes a big difference to be wary of the red flags, especially since teens tend to shy away from openly talking about their problems. Parents should have the mindset that the brain –much like every other organ in our body– is susceptible to illness, especially under stressful situations. Some of the symptoms to watch out for are: a general loss of interest in others, apathy, unusual behavior, and even sleep or appetite changes, among others. If and when these symptoms do show up, understand that these can all be addressed by a professional and that, at this point, your child will need someone they can trust and express their discomfort to.
- Be there for them – As simple as it may sound, your presence and actions can either ease or aggravate your child’s mental well-being. In her article, pediatric neuropsychologist Lee Ann Grisolano writes that “children in early to middle childhood want to please their adult caregivers more than anything else”, and that their mental health starts with how a parent perceives and responds to them. While your child might not show appreciation for asking them how their day went or what they need, know that your concern and affirmation goes a long way.
- Seek professional help when necessary – A study conducted in 2004 showed that only 30 out of 90 clinically diagnosed Filipinos seek professional treatment, either because of lack of funding or because of the fear of being judged. Hopefully, with the enactment of the Mental Health Law, seeking help from a psychiatrist will no longer be as burdensome or costly as it has been for the longest time. Do not hesitate to give your child the healthcare that they need when they clearly cannot perform tasks or interact with others as they once did.
- Be wary of social media’s effects – Children should spend no more than two hours in front of a screen daily, according to the The American Academy of Pediatrics. Online bullying, gaming addiction and exposure to violent or obscene media are only some of the Internet’s hazardous sides that can affect your child on a daily basis. Because social media has been proven to directly and negatively affect one’s mental health when engaged with excessively, parents should provide alternative activities for their kids in order for them to keep their minds healthy and active.
For more articles related to parenthood and education, check out Edukasyon.ph’s Parent Portal, where you can also help your child navigate their student life or visit Edukasyon.ph so they can search for their desired school, course and potential scholarship.