How to help nurture kids’ mental health
Build your mental health support skills with a free online resource
It’s easy to get nostalgic about being a kid. Playing outside, having no bills to pay, napping, enjoying so few responsibilities… for many of us, childhood might feel synonymous with a simpler time, especially when stacked up against the realities of adulthood.
We often forget that being a kid can be downright hard. Remember the pressure to do well in school, look a certain way, or excel in extracurricular activities? What about the anxiety of meeting new people and wanting to be liked? Not to mention the pressures of social media and online bullying—something we didn’t necessarily have to experience as children. With less life experience and fewer coping skills, kids can face serious problems if persistent feelings of sadness, loneliness, stress or anxiety go unaddressed.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health states that young people are more likely to experience mental illness than any other age group, and that 70 per cent of mental health problems take root in adolescence. Yet only 20 per cent of children that need help with mental health actually receive that support, setting the stage for challenges to follow them into adulthood and become more complex (i.e. harder to treat) over time. These are alarming stats, particularly for those of us that want to help the young people in our life flourish. The good news? Every adult has the ability to be better prepared to support kids with building mental wellness and resilience.
New online resource launched: Natural Supports Simulation
Whether you’re a parent, caregiver, relative, teacher, coach, mentor, or friend, you are what’s called a “natural support” (natural supports are developed organically through the course of daily living with people in our social network). As more people openly talk about mental health challenges, the higher the likelihood you’ll find yourself in a situation where you can be a natural support. Kids are already talking about mental health, and as adults, we need to know how to engage in these conversations in ways that help children and youth with their concerns. It’s all about learning—and putting into action—the right skills.
Recognizing the need to help adults build their capacity in this area, The Social Impact Lab (powered by United Way and J5) has recently launched a new online resource called the Natural Supports Simulation. This interactive tool invites adults to navigate through different scenarios that involve concerning behaviours in children and youth in a Q&A format, enabling people to build their own situations and outcomes. Feedback is provided, along with a list of skills and resources, to help prepare the individual as a natural support. It is available online at no cost.
“The Natural Supports Simulation is an important resource in our community because it gives us, as adults, a different way to understand mental health concerns being experienced by children and youth,” says Beth Gignac, COO of United Way of Calgary and Area. She explains the tool helps us pick up on signs of distress that can often be very subtle—even non-verbal.
“It helps us think about how to ask questions that are non-judgmental and nonthreatening, and provides space for young people to be confident and comfortable in sharing what might be troubling them.”
To date, 87% of people that provided feedback after taking the simulation indicated that it helped them increase their awareness of how to support a young person with a mental health concern.
“[The simulation is] very relevant to me because I am a soccer coach of my son's team,” one respondent shared. “It was very insightful as to the various ways to respond, but ultimately how to respond in a way that best supports the child.”
The resource was developed in consultation with subject matter experts from Alberta Health Services, Calgary Counselling Centre, carya, Catholic Family Services, Government of Alberta: Children’s Services, McMann, The Distress Centre, and The Alex.
Are you ready to join a community of caring citizens that can step in and support young people in Calgary? Increase your knowledge and become a natural support to the children and youth in your life today!