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When to seek help if your child is struggling with mental health

Doctors say the first step is to talk to your child
Posted at 6:45 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 19:45:10-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Experts say there has been an increase in kids and teens seeking help with mental health. Some warning signs to look out for include changes in behavior, but they add everyone has bad days. The best way to gauge if you should be worried is duration.

"Depending on the triggering event, so let’s say they lost a pet or a grandparent is that going to be hard for a day or two, of course. If that's still hard depending on the event, for weeks and months later, well maybe that's a bit too long. At the same time if your kid is having an off day or two and there’s no particular event we all have off days but if it turns into a consistent pattern, then it’s time to seek help," Connie Schnoes, Director of National Behavioral Health Dissemination for Boys Town said.

If you do notice a change in behavior for a longer period of time doctors say the best first step is to talk to your child.

"It’s good to have the focus with that child. And the first thing to do is, depending on the age of the child, but start with an open-ended type question: 'Hey noticed you’ve been struggling a bit lately. What's been hard for you lately? what are some of the successes you’ve had lately?'" said Dr. Mike Vance, Director of Behavioral Health for Children's Hospital.

Doctors say sometimes after a conversation you may notice all your kid needs is some one-on-one time, but trust your gut in knowing when it's the right time to seek further help.

"Who’s the best expert on your child? You. You’re the expert on your child and if you really feel on your judgment this is more than a bad day, this is starting to impact peer-group relationships, school functioning, family relationships and self-image — and it’s starting to have an impact and you say it's unprecedented for my kid — that's when you can look at the first level," Dr. Vance said.

Doctors say the best first step if you do need additional help is your pediatrician's office. It's a place kids have been before and many therapists do appointments at a pediatrics office. Other programs, like Connections, through Project Harmony can also help families take those next steps.

Connections takes referrals from schools or directly from families and helps them through the process of finding a mental health therapist. It also helps break down barriers like payment, language barriers and others.

They work to connect children with a mental therapist who is a good match for the child.

"A lot of times people want to see people who look like them and reflect who they are and feel they maybe have a shared experience and we try to pay attention to that," said Jordan Grieser, Director of the Connections Program.

Experts say throughout every step it's important to normalize mental health and destigmatize it, especially for kids.

To contact Connections for help with mental health services, or any family services you can call 402-959-1059.