It’s never too early to start thinking about our children’s mental health and well-being. Luckily, parents and families can do a lot to help create healthy environments that support mental health in our kids. Being diligent and aware of changes in attitude, potential bullying situations and overall demeanor can help identify potential problems before they go too far.

A resource parents may want to become familiar with is the Walk in Our Shoes website (www.walkinourshoes.org), which is also available in Spanish at www.ponteenmiszapatos.org. The website has sections for parents, kids and even teachers that include the following information:

  • What is mental health and mental illness and how is it diagnosed and treated,
  • What are some of the different types of mental health challenges that children and youth might be struggling with like Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Anxiety,
  • What are some common myths and fact about children and mental illness, and
  • How can families get the help they need but also learn how to help others and themselves

One of the primary purposes of the website is to share real stories from children and youth who have experienced mental health challenges and recovery. Using graphic illustrations, short animated stories are available to watch that are educational, but more importantly, demonstrate that it is OK to talk about mental health challenges experienced by children and youth. Being able to identify signs of someone struggling and knowing that help is available is essential, but real stories from children and youth put a face on mental illness, ensuring that people don’t feel alone.

For parents of young adults there are also resources available. Whether it is starting college or transitioning into adult life, the late teens and early 20s can be an exciting but stressful time. It’s also pretty common for the first signs of mental health problems to show up at this age. Young adults should be encouraged to talk about whether symptoms are part of typical life stress or something more. Talking to a professional can be a helpful way to ease through important life transitions. Two helpful resources for young adults are:

  • The Know the Signs campaign prepares Californians to prevent suicide by knowing and recognizing the warning signs, finding the words to offer support and reaching out to local resources at suicideispreventable.org This program is also available in Spanish at www.elsuicidioesprevenible.org
  • The Directing Change program invites high school and college students throughout California to submit 60-second films in two categories: suicide prevention and ending the silence of mental illness. The program website offers information about the program, a wide range of educational resources for students and schools and student-produced films that can be viewed and downloaded at directingchange.org