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The statistics are startling. The Importance of Mental Health Awareness
- Roughly five million children in the United States are diagnosed with some type of serious mental illness. (Source: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-illness-children#1)
- About 20% of children in the United States will be diagnosed with a mental illness in any specific year. (Source: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-illness-children#1)
- About 4.5 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with a behavior problem. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html)
- About 4.4 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html)
- About 1.9 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with depression. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html)
Chances are, your child or a child you know is affected by mental illness. As homeschoolers, we have the ability, freedom, and, yes, responsibility to teach ourselves and our children about mental illness. We are in the unique position to lovingly and gently teach the importance of mental health awareness.
Mental illness is invisible. It’s sneaky. Children with visible illnesses are rarely, if ever, questioned about their experiences with that condition. Sadly, the same is not true of children with mental illnesses. Phrases such as, “What’s your problem?”, “Get over it!”, “Quit being a cry-baby!”, and “Stop being over sensitive!” are far too commonly heard for children with mental illness.
Mental health and homeschooling are a perfect fit. Children may have friends or siblings struggling and they are able to learn about their struggles and how to help them in a safe and gentle way.
Knowing how to approach teaching mental health awareness can be tricky. Many are unfamiliar with mental illness and other mental health issues or are unsure how to start. Due to its prevalence, it’s critical to incorporate it into your homeschool day. Teaching children awareness and compassion for people with mental illness means they may someday serve as a lifeline for a friend, spouse, or their own child.
Teaching Younger Students About Mental Health
Younger students usually aren’t fully able to understand mental health or mental illness due to its complexity. You can, however, teach kids about their own mental health. One fun way is to teach them about their own emotions. Children often have a rich array of emotions, many of which they are not aware of or are not able to express.
Flashcards can be helpful in teaching kids to understand different emotions.
Another great activity for younger children is to use arts and crafts to show different emotions. This craft is especially cute because it shows different emotions, but it also shows students that the emotions of the same person can change.
You can also teach younger children how their actions and words can affect others. This activity can give your student a hands-on experience of how their words and actions can affect those around them.
Teaching Older Students About Mental Health
Older children are more capable of understanding mental illness and the impact it has on those who suffer from it, their friends, and families. They may even be in the social circle of someone with mental illness and have seen its effects firsthand.
It is critical for everyone to understand that mental illness is not anyone’s fault. Those who suffer from mental illness did not do anything to “deserve” their mental illness and, much of the time, it’s not anything that they can control. It’s also important to understand that mental illness, like other illnesses, is not contagious. Mental illness is the same as any other illness, only it’s harder to see.
Teaching Teens About Depression
Depression is a condition that causes a person to feel sad a lot of the time because the brain does not have the right chemicals to make that person feel happy. When these chemicals are missing, not only can people feel sad, but they can also feel tired and not wanting to do much of anything. Most of the time, people with depression want to feel happy, but they just can’t. They can help improve their condition through a healthy diet, exercise, and self-care, but it’s not a cure.
Teaching Teens About Anxiety
Someone who has an anxiety disorder always feels like there are alarms going off in their brain. They always feel as if something bad is happening or is about to happen. Most people with anxiety have had a bad experience in the past they are fearful of happening again in the future. Their brain is always telling them there is something scary happening or that they are in danger. Ask your student to think of a time when they felt really scared and then have them imagine what it would be like to feel that way all the time.
Teaching Teens About Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is a very complicated disorder and people with Bipolar Disorder feel very, very sad at times, but very, very happy at others. The shift between sad and happy times can be very sudden and quick or they can get “stuck” on a sad or happy period for an extended period of time. This disorder can be treated with medication and therapy and it’s very important to support someone who has this disorder and encourage them to keep taking their medication, going to their therapy appointments, and visit their doctor regularly.
Teaching Teens About Personality Disorder
People with personality disorders have a lot of trouble getting along with others. They lose friends easily because they are unable control their emotions. A personality disorder can be especially distressing because most people truly do want to fit in, have friends, and be part of a social group. They do not have the ability to meet some of their basic needs. Most people learn these skills in childhood, but people with personality disorder did not or, worse, were abused by someone they loved and trusted.
The Importance of Mental Health Awareness