World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is “Young people and mental health in a changing world.”

Coincidentally, today is also the day that we finally decided to reach out and get a family therapist. On the surface, we don’t have any problems that are any different than anyone else with two feisty, healthy, opinionated kids. But we’ve decided to take an extra measure.

First and foremost, to see if we can help our kids (and ourselves, really) with some anger management issues. A lot of emotions get out of control and, in the spirit of “Love and Logic,” it’s better to tackle them now than when our kids are teenagers and making decisions with greater consequences.

But second, because of the stigma of therapy and mental health. A friend of mine recently discussed going to a therapist with her spouse for a “marriage tune up.” And I loved the language she used - it destigmatizes the concept of therapy by making it seem like ordinary maintenance. Not extraordinary circumstances.

This approach to mental health is something I want to model for my kids. I want them to see that we pop in at the doctor once a year to make sure everything’s working and we go to the dentist twice a year to check our dental health. And so we’re going to treat our mental health the same way. Maybe this will work against that stigma that is so strong in society but that is also so strong in our own heads - which really is where you have to fight it first.

In Sergio’s and my journeys, we’ve encountered diagnoses, medications, therapy - and it has helped us both. We have no reason to believe that our kids will be immune from a similar path. And the truth is that we’re all on a path that is somewhat unprecedented as technology (and society) changes faster than we can keep up with. I encourage you to read through the wealth of resources here from the World Mental Health Foundation including articles on bullying (both cyber and IRL) and a brief but powerful article by a young entrepreneur, Natalie Hampton, who started the organization Sit With Us.

We have a lot of picture books on our shelf about emotions but I decided this morning to look specifically for books about mental health and I found this resource. I really appreciate the range of focus in this brief list - from broad (about emotions in general) to specific (about particular kinds of struggle). I am looking forward to reading these with my kids.

What books do you recommend to help kids understand their mental states and manage their emotions?