HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — North Carolina received a failing grade on a report about child health.

The report found that the state is not doing enough to address mental health concerns in children.

Dr. Kelly Graves, with The Kellin Foundation, talks about this critical, overlooked issue and what parents can do for their children.

Talking points from The Kellin Foundation

Especially since the pandemic, it is clear that mental health is an area of growing concern and demands immediate attention. 1 in 4 youth and 1 in 5 adults have a diagnosable mental health condition.

Everyone has mental health. From babies to toddlers to teens, to adults – it might “look different” at different developmental stages, but mental health applies to everyone. These can include things like anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can have a significant impact on children’s academic performance, social development, and overall quality of life.

Since 2021 there has been a 25% increase of children who report feeling sad or hopeless or experiencing a major depressive episode for two or more weeks in a row. The recently released data for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey data shows that almost 40% of teen girls have not only thought about suicide but have made a plan. This statistic requires immediate action.

​​​​​​​What Can Parents Do?

When it comes to mental health, small actions equal big impact. Here are some actions to consider

  • Go upstream and address early. We must go upstream before the crisis hits. Look for the signs and if you see them don’t ignore them. It is much harder to stop the train once it gets going than to stall it when you see it slowly pulling out of the station.
  • Monitor your language. How are you talking about mental health? Are you using words that further stigmatize mental health or are you normalizing that everyone needs help sometimes?
  • Build the positives. Mental health is not only about avoiding the negatives but about building the positives. Look for ways to integrate positive experiences into your child’s life such as extracurricular activities, youth groups, and visits to the children’s museum or park. Those moments of connection and play help to buffer stressors.
  • Seek support. Sometimes we can lean on the support of families and friends. That is great. And sometimes, we need additional support. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional who can help support you, your children, and your family. That’s what they are there for. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

And that includes parents, too. Self-care is important for your mental health. And how parents are doing makes a difference for children. No matter the situation, there is always help and there is always hope.