Most parents know how to look for a signs of physical injury in their children, but some times the signs of mental health and emotional injury are tougher to see.
To help, a presentation on adolescent mental health called “Minding Your Mind — Just Talk About It” was held last Wednesday at Foxboro High School for parents, caregivers, and the community.
During the presentation, Minding Your Mind’s Clinical Director Jon Mattleman talked about the signs and symptoms of the most prevalent mental health concerns impacting teens and how to offer support.
“We are generally good in our culture with a physical injury or challenge… but not with a mental health one — in other words, anything below the neck gets needed attention, above the neck issues are often hidden, not treated, and have lots of stigmas,” Mattleman said. “Kids who are struggling with their mental health not only get depressed, but this limits their happiness, and limits what they can achieve in every realm — academically, socially, and even athletically,” he said.
Mattleman said his most requested presentation is entitled “The Secret Lives of Teens and Tweens,” which is designed to give parents the language to use with their teen/tween. He also gives talks focused on the issues of suicide and anxiety.
“I hope that parents have a new language with which to talk to their kids about anxiety and suicide and to burst the myths about mental health,” said Mattleman who shared that he has struggled as have so many in his family have also.
In addition, Elizabeth, a young adult who struggled with anxiety, perfectionism, disordered eating, and substance use shared her personal story. Because of the serious issues she has struggled with, Elizabeth did not share her last name during the presentation.
Cory Mikolazyk, director of student services for Foxboro schools, said the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light a need for parents, families and guardians to receive training on mental health challenges. He’s seen a “tenfold” increase in students who are dealing with mental health challenges over the past couple of years.
“Sometimes it could be depression, sometimes it could be anxiety. Our staff here in-house are well trained, and well equipped to support our students that have those challenges, but at the same time what we’ve noticed is that our families who spent a lot of time with their students at home, is that they struggled around what is the best way to support my son or my daughter in the home or even at school and what does that look like,” Mikolazyk said.
Amy Muldowney, who is the community wellness coordinator for Foxboro schools, said she hopes parents picked up some helpful strategies at this presentation – and at future events. Muldowney said one of the biggest goals is to remove some of that stigma around mental health.
“We as a community in Foxboro want to make sure folks are comfortable talking about mental health talking about challenges people may have with mental health. And also just recognize that mental health is on a spectrum, and everyone has different times when they may be struggling in some areas and thriving in others,” Muldowney said.
They urged families needing assistance or resources to each out to the public schools for support, as well as the many organizations in the community that offer help.
“My hope is that folks who come to the events can leave it feeling like they are not alone if they’re dealing with mental health struggles in their family. And also they can have some ideas about ways that they can reach out for help and ways that they can work within their own family to support their students, and parents, too. We want to make sure that we’re supporting their well-being because mental health really is a lifelong journey for everyone,” Muldowney said.
Cheryl Jacobs, a mother of three boys, said she attended the presentation because she was curious to learn more about what her children were hearing in school.
“That is more of my motivation to understand what the kids were going to hear. But I learned a lot more just about mental health, anxiety, and depression in general, which was really helpful overall,” Jacobs.
Her biggest takeaway was one of the stories about how anxiety shows and that it can show up in underperforming in a sports environment, taking a task, and socially.
Jacobs said: “That broadens my perspective around what it looks like. So I think it’s going to cause me to look at some scenarios differently.”
To find more about Family community events for supporting mental health visit: Foxborough.k12.Ma.us/calendar