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How to manage your mental health

Managing mental health key to feeling good

Managing mental health key to feeling good

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Wednesday August 25, 2010

Everyone is familiar with the recommendations to keep your body healthy - eat well, exercise daily. But what about managing your mental health?

"Most people don't give much thought to managing feeling good or their mental health on a typical day," says Marion Cooper, Team Manager, Mental Health Promotion with the Winnipeg Health Region. It isn't until life throws them a curve that they pay attention to how they're feeling. "The truth is that mental health practices are important to introduce and continue to maintain positive mental health."

That's an important message for everyone, including young people.

A recent survey found that roughly 75 per cent of students in Grades 9 through 12 feel happy, safe and connected to people at school. But it also found that 37 per cent of students felt so sad or hopeless they stopped doing their usual activities for awhile

Overall, the numbers are quite positive, says Cooper. Adolescence is a time of transition when emotions can run high, so having a bad day or a few bad days isn't something to be alarmed about. But when there's a pattern of feeling sad or hopeless, when your teen isn't feeling good for a stretch of time, it may be time to look at supports to help them feel better and manage their mental health.

"It's not unusual for youth to express sadness or hopeless from time to time," says Cooper. "If they persist, if they start to impact school performance, relationships with family and friends or there are changes to their activity level, that's when sadness or hopelessness may warrant some additional supports."

Talking is the first step to promoting positive mental health with your teen. It may feel awkward to chat about feelings and how they're doing but it's an important conversation to have sooner rather than later. That way any concerns can be immediately discussed and solutions can be explored.

If you're unsure how to talk to your kids about how they're feeling or if they're happy or what's bugging you, consider visiting these links:

The Decade after High School - A Parents Guide

If you're concerned about your child's mental health and well-being, there is a centralized intake line within the Winnipeg Health Region you can call. One phone call can help you access mental health resources you and your family may need through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program. The number to call is: 958-9660.

"What do you do to promote positive mental health with your teen?" asks Cooper. "Look for any changes to their behaviour. Deal with issues as they come up. The bottom line is feeling good is going to positively impact their well being. If they're not feeling good, you need to work with them to fix that."

Things to look at when considering what you as a parent can do to help your teen feel good:

  1. It may sound simple but make sure they're getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can negatively impact mood and school performance.
  2. Look at their social supports. Are their friends helping your teen feel good or are they causing stress and drama?
  3. What's your teen's diet like? A regular intake of junk food, food that is high in salt, sugar and fat can negatively impact their health and overall mood. Try to encourage healthier food choices.
  4. What are your teen's coping methods? Are they able to freely express their emotions? Can they talk about their concerns with someone they trust? Do they turn to substance abuse? Emotions are a part of everyday life. How your teen responds to negative things that may happen and how resilient they are can be impacted by how they choose to cope with what life throws their way.
  5. Is it too much? Setting small, attainable goals is preferable to setting daunting goals that can overwhelm your teen. If they're able to break down a big goal into smaller steps they can take, they will likely feel a sense of mastery and completion instead of despair and failure.
  6. Is your child a social person? Spending hours on Facebook or texting their friends may be one element of communicating with the outside world but there needs to be more. Your teen needs face to face time with their friends to talk, see a movie, shoot some hoops or do nothing but catch up. Encourage face time with friends so your teen has peer social supports to help them navigate tough or awkward times.
  7. Encourage your teen to start regular self care rituals. Little things they routinely do to take care of their physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs can be the very things that comfort and centre them.
  8. Be available to them. They may roll their eyes. They may resist. But ensure your kids know you're an available ear and source of advice and insight. Invite them to ask tough questions and try to provide honest answers.
  9. Model good self care and make mental health - feeling good - an important part of your life and the choices you make. Children learn what they live.
  10. Is it time to ask for help? If your teen needs another perspective for a tough problem or additional supports, click here to see about counselling resources.

Some reading for your teen about feeling good:

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