The Jewish community, like many others, used to view mental health as a taboo topic. Though mental illnesses have been among the most common health conditions in the United States for many years, there was a sense of shame associated with discussing mental health or seeking help. While mental health awareness has come a long way in recent years, it is more important than ever that children understand that their mental wellbeing is prioritized and encouraged.
In the early 2000s, Laurie Kramer founded the Annual Mental Health Conference to raise awareness of the fact that mental health issues are as common in the Jewish community as they are in the broader community. At that time, the subject was still extremely taboo – yet over 500 members of the Jewish community attended the conference where they learned how to give and get support, understand mental health conditions, and learn that they are not alone.
Over ten years after the annual conference was founded, more organizations began to launch with the aim of eliminating the stigma associated with mental health conditions and raise awareness within the Jewish community. More individuals within the Jewish community and beyond began seeking mental health support when needed and advocating for it within their networks. As a result, mental health awareness has come a long way – but there is still room for growth.
Learning to accept and acknowledge one’s own mental health is a significant step towards a healthier future. However, it is equally as important that parents are talking to their children about mental health. This includes acknowledging the existence of mental health issues in the broader community, openly discussing any mental health issues within the family, checking in on the child’s day-to-day feelings and emotions, and encouraging healthy coping mechanisms or seeking professional help. Having these open and honest conversations will help prevent your child from attaching a negative stigma to mental health topics – and encourage open discussion about other health and safety topics.
Research shows that children with parents who don’t shy away from uncomfortable or tricky topics are more likely to avoid risky behaviors and more likely to speak up if confronted with bullying, abuse, or other unsafe situations. These conversations can feel overwhelming at first, but many parents are already taking steps to foster positive mental health habits in their children without knowing it. Here’s how:
1. Talk about mental health
A broken leg isn’t kept a secret, and neither should mental health. If anyone in your family is experiencing a mental health issue, be upfront with your child and explain the illness to them in age-appropriate terms.
2. Check in daily
If you ask your child about their day, you’re already helping facilitate conversations about mental health. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and emotions about the day’s events and be sure to lead by example.
3. Help build resilience
Parents often want to shield their children from tough times and challenging topics but allowing them to face these situations helps build resilience and create positive coping skills. Whether it is dealing with the death of a loved one or coping with change, allow your child to experience and acknowledge these emotions.
4. Adapt a positive mental health lifestyle
Simple lifestyle factors can greatly influence a child’s overall mental health. Children who eat a balanced diet, have regular sleeping patterns, exercise regularly, and maintain routines feel more secure and therefore have positive mental wellbeing experiences.
5. Build a network of trusted adults
Having a network of trusted adults who acknowledge the importance of mental health will further help your child feel supported. This network will be a safe space for children to talk about their mental health, ask questions, and come to for advice on a range of challenging topics.
About The Author
Brittany Ciupka Brittany is passionate about helping for-purpose organisations develop the tools and strategies that drive change. She has a keen interest in the health sector, particularly empowering people to take control over, and to improve, their health. Her formal education in health communications, sociology, and public health paired with her experience in marketing and nonprofit management enables her to support clients in the growth and success of their ventures. Read more at www.ciupkafreelance.com.