Mental Health Awareness

We must be more intentional with mental health awareness and giving space for us all to recognize and act in love when struggles occur.

An increasing number of parents, schools, and churches have recognized the need to offer more resources in the arena of counseling and psychology, and part of that need is to help others see how our emotional and mental issues must be part of our personal plan for health. There is a movement to increase mental health awareness to provide what our kids and families require.

Here is my story…

I didn’t know what to do.

I was in the car rider line at the local elementary school early that morning. My daughter, the youngest child, wouldn’t talk to me. She was frozen in fear, but I couldn’t understand why. She sat there, wide eyed, and completely silent, not getting out of the car when we got to the curb. Other cars were behind us, waiting.

Taking a breath, I realized she forgot her backpack at home. I explained she wasn’t in trouble and I would get it for her and bring it to school.

She got out of the car, and it all worked out of course. My wife and I processed why she feared making a common mistake, dialoguing with her about it to try and understand. Over the next few months, she started shutting down in class. The teacher interpreted her lack of communication as disrespect and rebellion, but our daughter was having varying degrees of anxiety attacks.

We were in the middle of discussing and exploring counseling when we got the call from the school that our daughter had threatened to kill a student in a note. She had a fight with this other student, a tiff like girls do in the second grade, but completely overreacted.

My wife and I had experience in public education, ministry, and other situations dealing with mental health. Now it was our kid struggling with her mental health.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health awareness deals with recognizing that our psychological well-being is a central aspect of our individual health and success, as well as for our families and communities. God created our emotions and intellect the same as our physical bodies, and we should be cognizant of the need for resources in this area for kids and families just as we do our biological health.

Mental health issues in children have been on the rise over the last decade, from anxiety to suicide and more. CDC data disclosed that one out of every five children had some form of mental disorder, and only 20% of those with problems received any mental health care.

Help Prevent Teen Suicide with our FREE Online Training

Alive to Thrive is designed to help parents and ministry leaders understand how suicide can be prevented. Through Alive to Thrive, you may become the lifeline that saves a young person’s life.

Mental Health Crisis in Our Kids

This has only been exacerbated through the COVID pandemic with a greater rise in mental illness in children and a demand for psychological services. In a 2020 study from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, 71% of parents reported the pandemic had a significant negative impact on their kids. Mental health emergencies have risen 24% among children 5-11 and 31% for those 12-17.

Desperate for some solutions with our daughter in the second grade, we made major changes, pulling her from school and enrolling her into an online program that I oversaw. Through friends in the community, we found a local counselor and took her once a week. As parents, we also examined her diet, exercise, and other aspects that could be contributing to her mental health issues.

Within a year, the counselor was satisfied our daughter had developed skills to cope and manage the anxiety, and we only checked in every couple months, thankful that things had improved.

Unexpected Stressors

COVID hit years later. Along with the pandemic stress, our daughter got her period, hormones raged, and she began acting out again, even running away one night, a traumatic event for our family.

We explored options again. We switched to a new counselor since our daughter is older, and due to the extremity of a couple episodes, we began the process of exploring a possible diagnosis, along with other holistic considerations. My daughter is an adolescent, so she’s not perfect, but she has made a great turnaround over the last year.

YouTube video

The Mental Health Journey

Through this journey, we questioned our parenting and doubted God for moments. It is a struggle, but we continue to seek the best practices for our daughter’s health, adapting and reevaluating as we go.

Regarding mental health in our kids, a minimal amount of research leads to staggering statistics. It can seem overwhelming, but we must remember – parents are the primary care for kids. God has given these precious, amazing souls to us, and no one in the world loves them more.

The umbrella term of mental health covers a wide range of issues at varying degrees. While living our specific story, my wife and I have learned a few principles that could encourage other parents relating to mental health awareness.

Encouragement for Mental Health Awareness

1. Make it okay to not be okay.

Develop a healthy culture within your family, one in which you welcome or even initiate conversations about how people are feeling and what your kids struggle with. If your child had excruciating pain, we’d want them to feel comfortable bringing that problem to us. The same is true with mental health.

My wife and I spoke about our own stress and anxiety and how we coped, both the positive and negative. We shared a few details about other family members and friends who have dealt in positive ways with things like bipolar, depression, or autism. These are people our daughter loves and respects, and it helped her to participate in appropriate measures for herself.

2. Develop a holistic view of your child’s health.

Our children are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. They are also a trinity of body, soul, and spirit, and these three are connected, working in unity. Spiritual problems have an impact on our soul and body, just as physical issues do on our emotions. Disorder in our mental health isn’t disconnected with the physical or spiritual. Therefore, approach solutions for mental health in the context of the whole child. Yes, get counseling and professional psychological help when needed. Also examine things like diet, exercise, friend groups, the church community, sleep patterns, spiritual beliefs and practices, and more.

This is the reason a parent is the authority in making health decisions for their child. God has given us that authority, and furthermore, as parents we have the knowledge and experience necessary to know how choices will affect the entire individual.

For example, we discovered food coloring and preservatives cause our daughter to be more emotional and hyperactive. Regular, strenuous exercise regulates her emotions. She has objects to fidget with and that help her to focus in school. We pray with her often and praise her for her hard work and talents. This isn’t in place of getting professional help when needed, but examples of how other life adjustments can improve her mental health.

3. Communicate with friends and family you trust about the issue.

Don’t go through this alone. As parents, when our children develop a mental disorder, we often feel like failures, which makes us want to hide the problem and isolate ourselves from others. But we weren’t made to go through life alone. We need to be vulnerable and humble in communicating with others that we trust, even if it is only a few.

When we are vulnerable with those that love us, we often find others have had similar experiences with their kids. My wife and I have several families in our church, of which I am the pastor, and we check in with each other regularly. We pray for each other and our kids. This openness leads to more trust, support, and connection in our community.

Others may also have references to pass on to us. A friend of mine who is a church planter suggested a Christian counseling service when I shared about what had been happening. Our daughter loves the counselor we use through that service.

4. Seek the Father’s guidance.

There is one person who loves our kids more than we do. God not only loves them more; He also knows more about them than we ever can. He created them with plans and purposes, all for good. We should seek the wisdom of a community and professionals, but the best source of help is God. James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we only need to ask and he will provide it.

We pray for our daughter, and all three of our kids, on a regular basis. Others in our community also pray with us and for her. We know we need the guidance of a loving Heavenly Father if we are to make the right decisions that are best for our daughter’s health and future. He has faithfully provided and led us along the way.

5. This is only one part of your child’s story.

Our children may have struggle with their mental health, but they are not a problem. A mental disorder doesn’t define them or their story. Often, it is only one part of their story. It isn’t the end of their life, nor does it need to keep them from God’s purposes for them. Above all, our children are blessings. Through the wisdom and love of God, the support of a community, and professional assistance, parents can place children in the right environment to be healthy in every sense.

It might only be for a season. My daughter has had long periods of time where she did great once we found elements that worked and helped her to thrive. God also heals supernaturally. Even if God doesn’t supernaturally heal and it is something the child and family must deal with for the rest of their life, God can and will empower our kids to be a blessing now and in the future.

Final Thoughts on Mental Health Awareness

This is the story of our family. While every story is unique, we all need to consider our mental health from preventative measures to dealing with extreme crises to provide the best environment for our kids to become who God has created them to be. This is why we must be more intentional with mental health awareness and giving space and margin for us all to better recognize and act in love when struggles occur.

About the Author

Read More About:

You May Also Like

A couple sits next to each other on a couch, holding each other's hands tenderly in a marriage challenged by mental illness.
Healthy Marriage

Hope for a Marriage Challenged by Mental Illness

Nearly 50 million Americans are affected by mental illness. Navigating mental health conditions and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be a confusing and draining experience for spouses. But this does not mean the end of your marriage — there is hope for your marriage even if it is riddled with mental illness.

Child holding bowl repaired by kintsugi
Encourage Children

Beauty in the Brokenness: How God Restores Our Hearts

Kintsugi is the art of repairing something that has been broken with gold, with the understanding that the object is more beautiful because it has been broken. Like the art of kintsugi, God repairs the brokenness in our lives and makes us more beautiful through the process.