The teen years are hard for so many students and their families. As parents, we wonder what is normal behavior or if there is something else going on. Are they just typical teens or are they suffering from things like depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, OCD, etc.? Are there signs to look for? How do we reconnect and talk with our kids?
On Sept. 25, the Lake Nona High School PTSA sponsored an “End the Silence” presentation by the National Alliance for Mental Illness of Greater Orlando (NAMI). Held at Mathnasium of Lake Nona, the presentation outlined symptoms of mental health conditions and gave attendees ideas about how to help themselves, friends or family members.
Donna Hensel, NAMI Orlando director of education, was the presenter. Hensel shared that she is not only an educator, but she also has her own personal story as a parent. She went on to say, “Early identification of symptoms and intervention are essential. Paying attention to mental health is no different than any other illness. The thing to remember is that symptoms look different in one child to the next.” For example, one may show sadness with tears, but another may show sadness through anger. We all are individuals with individual needs.
According to NAMI, half of all people living with a mental health condition start having symptoms by age 14, yet it takes 8-10 years for them to get treatment. Many teens are afraid to speak up when they need help. NAMI “Ending the Silence” changes that, letting them know that they are not alone and people care.
Four Steps to Early Intervention (provided by NAMI):
- Know the Warning Signs
- Feeling very sad and withdrawn for more than two weeks.
- Severe out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors that cause harm to self or others.
- Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart, physical discomfort or fast breathing.
- Seeing, hearing or believing things that aren’t real.
- Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits.
- Be aware of bullying.
- Reach Out and Respond
What TO say:
- Can you tell me more about what’s happening?
- How are you feeling?
- Have you had feelings like this in the past?
- Sometimes you need to talk to an adult about your feelings. I’m here to listen. Would you like to talk with me?
- Do you feel like you want to talk to someone else about how you’re feeling?
What NOT to say:
- Don’t dismiss how they’re feeling as routine or as something that will get better on its own.
- Don’t say, “We all go through this, you’ll be fine.”
- Don’t ask questions that will only give you a yes/no answer. Don’t say, “Are you okay, are you having any problems?”
- Don’t ask questions in any way that indicates you want “no” as an answer. For example, don’t say, “You’re not feeling anxious about going to school, are you?”
- Don’t promise confidentiality.
- Work With School Staff and Your Child
Share your concerns, establish communication channels, ask about classroom adjustments.
- Provide Resources and Support
Talk with healthcare professionals. Share your concerns, ask if an evaluation is needed, ask for referrals, and educate yourself.
What is NAMI? NAMI is a grassroots community network of support for anyone affected by mental health conditions – individuals and their family, friends and caregivers. “We want to ensure that no one in Central Florida who is living with mental illness is alone in their journey to recovery and mental health wellness. We serve Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties,” reads the namigo.org website. For more information or to register for classes, please contact the NAMIGO Office at 407-253-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sophia Rogers is a Lake Nona area resident and Realtor/founder of NonaHomeGuide.com. A wife and mom of four, family, relationships and real estate are her passions. She can be reached at email@example.com.