Mental health experts explain why we should talk to kids about mental health

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Published: May. 31, 2022 at 1:43 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, mental health professionals are continuing to remind parents and caregivers as to why they should create a dialogue about mental health with their children.

“The past ten years, we have been seeing increasing concerns for children’s mental health,” said Dr. Ariana Hoet, Pediatric Psychologist and Clinical Director of On Our Sleeves. “Then of course, a pandemic happened, and so its gotten even worse than the trends we were already seeing.”

Dr. Hoet said mental health awareness in children starts with early education.

“Kids are young, they don’t have the language to talk about what they’re feeling or they may not even know that they’re feeling something,” she said. “So, we have to start at square one, from the moment they’re born. Just like we’re teaching them the ABC’s or 123′s, teaching them how to be sad, angry... teaching them those emotion words.”

Dr. Jonathan Martin, Medical Director of Baptist Health Corbin Behavioral Health said the earlier parents and caregivers can create this dialogue with children, the earlier they can pinpoint any mental health related issues.

“Kids struggle, and the earlier that we can get them involved in treatment or intervene, then the better outcome they can have throughout their lives,” said Dr. Martin.

Dr. Martin added that talking to your kids about mental health and equipping them with the appropriate tools can benefit their lives in numerous ways.

“They’re gonna send these kids out to school, to public places, they’re gonna be away from home and they’re going to experience things and have feelings about it,” he said. “They’re gonna need someone to talk to about those things or to help normalize their experience or talk to them if they’re having a traumatic experience, to get through it.”

Even though starting that mental health dialogue with your child might feel scary and unfamiliar, Dr. Martin recommends being honest and factual about mental health.

“Discuss what mental health is and what it means,” said Dr. Martin. “Maybe share a little bit if you’ve had a similar experience or struggle... that way they feel like the dialogue is open and they feel like its a normal thing to talk about.”

There are multiple mental health resources in the Eastern Kentucky and Southeastern Kentucky region to for parents and their children to utilize. You can find a list below.

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