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EARLY YEARS: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare offers tips on recognizing warning signs in kids and teens
Experts say parents should watch out for warning signs in their kids, including changes in eating and sleeping habits
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 5:20 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - “Mental health is just like any other health issue that you would want to treat your child for. If you took your child to the doctor, and they got a diagnosis of diabetes, you would work with the doctor. You would go home and research that,” says Cathy Brown, Director of Child, Youth and Family Services for Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare.

Brown and others who serve at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare are encouraged that mental health struggles are emerging from the shadows.

For parents, she says it’s important to ask your child the right questions, if you’re worried that something is wrong.

“I still think it’s important for parents specifically to understand that it’s very important to have those conversations with your child. That asking your child if they feel like hurting themselves or if they are depressed, is not going to cause depression,” says Brown.

Asking those direct questions is crucial, according to Brown.

It’s never too early to think about mental health, as issues often start in childhood.

“This may have started when they were in middle school or high school, or even earlier. So, if we can intervene early enough, we can have better outcomes,” says Sheila Lythgoe, Community Prevention Initiative Coordinator for Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare.

Another important reminder-- sometimes what appears to be happiness on the outside doesn’t reflect a struggle within.

“They may portray that everything’s great, but are you looking for differences in behavior? Are they saying things that just doesn’t seem right?” says Lythgoe.

When it comes to recognizing warning signs, parents need to trust their guts.

“Any change in mood, or change in sleep patterns, change in eating patterns,” says Brown.

Blue Ridge Behavioral Health is also offering training sessions to help families stay vigilant about mental health.

It’s about providing hope, when hope is sometimes hard to find.

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