May is Mental Health Month and in an effort to raise awareness, people from all over the country are blogging about mental health today. Always one to like talking about all things mental, I knew this was one blog party I wouldn’t want to miss.
Just last week I spoke to a group of fifth graders at a local elementary school about what it was like to be a child psychologist. I like going to career days because the children ask the most hilarious questions. My favorite this time was whether or not one boy could bring his girlfriend to my office for couples therapy. Hmm, let me think about it . . . NO! But I did tell him that he could come to my clinic with his parents to talk about his relationship problems anytime he wanted. Just no couples therapy yet.
Other than getting a big laugh out of their adorable questions and scaring them when I tell them how many years it takes to actually become a child psychologist, I enjoy talking to children about mental health in general. With adults there is often such a stigma about seeking help for mental health issues. But with kids, it’s much easier to get them to understand that it’s okay to have a problem that they need to talk to a therapist about.
Mental Health Analogy That Kids (And Grown-ups) Can Understand:
To get the mental health conversation with kids going, I always start by asking them what happens when they get a sore throat or a stomach ache. What do they do? They all raise their hands because they know this answer. They tell their parents and go to the doctor. Simple. Their pediatrician works to help them feel better when they are sick. Sometimes they need medicine if they are sick, but often there are other things that their doctor might tell them to do to feel better.
While their pediatrician is there to help their body stay well and recover from physical illnesses, they also need someone who is available when they have issues going on in their mind that are bothering them. That’s where psychologists come in. To help when you have a mental health problem. I always make sure to point out that psychologists do not give any shots or medicine at their offices, they only use talking to treat mental health issues. Another plus is that child psychologists have lots of board games and toys at their offices that kids can play with while they talk.
If you think about it, if you have a brain then you have mental health. Everyone has it! Sometimes your brain has good mental health, but sometimes there are problems in your mind that you need help with. It’s the same as your physical health. In my opinion, there should be no more stigma attached to having a mental health problem like depression than there is for having a physical health problem like appendicitis.
So, in honor of Mental Health Month, let’s spread the word. If you’ve got a brain, then you’ve got mental health!