In this year approximately one in five adults in the U.S. will experience a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or post- traumatic stress disorder.
To bring awareness and reduce the shame and stigma that surrounds these illnesses, President Obama has proclaimed May 2015 to be National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2015.
What are the Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness? Having a combination of symptoms (not just one symptom) indicates that someone might be showing signs of a mental health condition.
Pay attention to these symptoms when they last longer than a few weeks.
Many mental health illnesses can be effectively treated with one or a combination of medication and psychotherapy. There are day programs or partial hospital programs and in more serious cases inpatient hospital programs. There are a variety of professionals that can provide psychotherapy or counseling services. These include psychologists, licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) and licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC). These professionals must adhere to strict rules of confidentiality to protect client’s privacy.
Many gain support and valuable information from support groups. For more information on support groups visit National Alliance on Mental Health www.nami.org or Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance www.dbsalliance.org
Talk with your doctor or mental health professional about your mental health concerns. If you or someone close to you has thoughts or a plan of killing one’s self or someone else seek immediate attention by calling 911 or going to your nearest emergency room.
Usually a parent suspects their child has difficulty with self-esteem and confidence even before it is brought to their attention by a teacher or school counselor. It is important to not only take this seriously but also identify what steps can be taken to increase the child’s self-esteem. The first signs that a child has low self esteem usually appears when the child enters school or pre-school. The child may feel unlovable, helpless, fearful of others and afraid to try new things. Children with low self esteem tend to be very self critical, exhibit low frustration tolerance and speak negatively about themselves. A child’s home where he or she has felt loved, safe and capable is the best place for self doubt to be replaced with positive feelings about him or herself. Some changes can be easily implemented at home to improve a child’s view of him or herself.
For a number of reasons, as a child becomes older, some parents begin to focus on areas that need improvement versus focusing on their child’s strengths. At times, this results in children feeling like they cannot do anything right. Therefore, in an effort to develop awareness, it is suggested that parents keep track of the number of times they criticize their child. If you identify that you are being more critical, discontinue the criticism and make a serious effort to identify and point out your child’s strengths on a daily basis. Due to overwhelming demands, parents can easily become distracted and fail to realize that they are not providing their children enough positive attention. One way to increase positive attention can be by providing your child hugs and encouragement. This approach not only will increase your child’s confidence but also reduce the negative impact of any hurtful interactions your child may be experiencing at school.
A child’s feeling of helplessness can be turned around by a parent working with the child to discover within him/herself the many different ways to solving problems. Spending more time discussing specific problems your child is facing can help your child feel that he/she has the resources within him/herself to problem solve. This approach can be taken with a child even as young as 6 or 7 years of age. As simple as it sounds, just spending more time with your child and actively listening to what they have to say sends a message that they are important and valued, thus improving their self-esteem.
At times, it takes a concerted effort on the parent’s part to discover their child’s strengths. A child with low self esteem needs encouragement and opportunities to try new things that can build their confidence. Parents should note what activities their child seems to enjoy and then research activities that are available for their child. Also challenge your child’s irrational beliefs about themselves. Help your child develop more rational and realistic views of themselves or their abilities. Taking specific concrete steps to increase a child’s self esteem takes time, effort and persistence on the parents’ part. However it is one of the most important responsibilities they have as parents of a child with low self esteem.
In the past several years there has been some discussion among parenting experts and researchers regarding the value of parents praising their children. Some researchers have even reported that inflated praise can harm children with low self esteem.
One article in New York Magazine carried the following, alarming headline “The Self Esteem Movement Backfires—When Praise is Dangerous.” Another headline in a Psychology Today article read, “Praising Children With Low Self Esteem Can Backfire.”
The headlines appeared to be more attention seeking than informative. The actual research projects provided some interesting and helpful information for parents about the best ways to praise their children. Some researchers looked at the effect of praising a child’s intelligence vs. praising a child’s effort. Other researchers looked at the effect that inflated or exaggerated praise has on a child with low self esteem. Dr. Carol Dweck, along with a Columbia University team, for ten years studied the effect of praise on students in 20 New York schools. Researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a non-verbal IQ test.. When the researcher told the student his score, he would be given a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told “you must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort. They were told, “you must have worked really hard.” In follow up research, students were given the choice of taking a more difficult second test or an easy test just like the first test. The students were also told that they would learn a lot if they took the more difficult test. Of those praised for their efforts,90 % chose the harder test. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. Other subsequent tests, so hard that all of the students failed, looked at the two groups of students’ response to failure. Those praised for their effort on the first test, assumed that they hadn’t focused hard enough on the difficult test. Those praised for their intelligence assumed that their failure was evidence that they really weren’t smart at all.”
At the end of her 10 years of studying the effects of praising students for their intelligence vs praising students for their effort, Dr. Dweck concluded”Emphazizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control. They come to see themselves as in conrol of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure” . Dr. Dweck, based on some of the findings from her ten year study , went on to develop a theory of two different mindsets that she believes shape our lives and our brains. LS Blackwell, a member of Dr. Dweck’s team, took the study one step further. Acting on the findings of the previous tests , Blackwell took a group of students who had a history of decreasing math grades. A total of 50 minuteswere spent teaching the students a single idea: that the brain is a muscle, giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. That alone improved the students’ math scores. In another university, research was done looking at the effect that inflated or exaggerated praise has on children with low self esteem. Eddie Brummelman and Brad Bushman conducted research at Ohio State University in which they found that adults seem to naturally give more inflated praise to children with low self esteem.
For the research, inflated praise included one additional adverb such as “ incredibly” or an additional adjective “ perfect.” An example of simple praise would be, “you’re good at this” while “ you’re incredibly good at this” was considered inflated praise.
The findings of this study showed that children with high self esteem seemed to thrive with inflated praise,while those with low self esteem, who had been given inflated praise actually avoided attempting any new challenging work. Brummelman said their findings suggested that the inflated praise may put too much pressure on those with low self esteem. “ They may think that they always need to do incredibly well.” Bushman in an article for Psychology Today when providing a conclusion regarding the Ohio research says it is important when praising a child to focus on behavior or the process of the behavior vs praising the good qualities of the child.
The overal message for parents seems to be that praise for children needs to be sincere, specific, contain no exaggerations, and the focus of the praise should be on effort vs. the achievement or intelligence of the child.