THE ISSUE: Mental Health and Teens.
LOCAL IMPACT: EDGE Nebraska City hosts mental health program to help families identify mental health issues and to get treatment. The EDGE program hosts a series of programs to help students find success in multiple areas.
Being engaged and providing an opportunity for dialog are two ways to get an edge at home when it comes to addressing mental health with pre-teen and teenagers.
Both strategies were discussed during a presentation Thursday night at the Nebraska City Middle School.
The presentation by Lindsey Teten, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, was sponsored by EDGE Nebraska City.
EDGE, which stands for Engage, Discover, Grow and Embark, has the goal of reaching families with needed information and assets to promote growth and success.
“Bottom line, we want to give families and kids an edge in life,” said Stacie Higgins, an organizer with EDGE. “We want to help you do what you need to do as a family to be successful.”
Thursday’s program at the middle school was the third program that EDGE has sponsored with the topic being selected based on the results of a survey asking what community members would like to hear more about.
Higgins said EDGE would like to hear from the community about other presentations they would like to see offered. A survey was provided after the mental health presentation by Teten on Thursday.
If there is a topic that people would like to see addressed they can contact EDGE Nebraska CIty through its Facebook page on Twitter (@EDGEnebcity) or by email at edgenebcitgmail.com.
Teten, a mother to three infant triplets, will be opening a new practice at 1120 6th Corso, home to the former Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and told the crowd at the middle school on Thursday that she was excited for the opportunity to engage with families about the important topic of mental health.
“I am really excited to work with EDGE and to continue with this work together,” she said.
Mental health, Teten acknowledged can be seen as a taboo topic, one that folks really don’t want to talk about.
Teten said in order to address it, the lines of communication have to opened up so that stigma can be removed.
“It’s really important for us to be open and have conversations about it,” Teten said, noting that adults need to talk amongst each other but also with the kids.
Mental health issues are common, Teten said. As a result, people should not feel alone in dealing with these issues.
Teten noted that 21 percent of children and adults meet diagnostic criteria for mental illness and that an additional 15 percent don’t meet those diagnostic criteria but are experiencing issues with functioning on a day-to-day basis due to struggles with mental health troubles.
In addition, Teten said those with chronic illness, like diabetes for instance, have a greater risk of having mental illness.
In dealing directly with pre-teens and teens, Teten said the most common problems are those related to depression and anxiety. Worry, fear and sadness are, by themselves, not a sign of mental health issues.
And some issues, door slamming, defiance and other behaviors are common to teens.
So parents face a central question. How do you know when an issue is something that requires intervention?
Teten said the question of intervention can relate directly to the severity of the problem.
Excessive aggression, self injury, unreasonable fear, school phobia or bad and risky decision making are red flags, Teten said.
Students might also drop out of activities, complain of aches and pains or show an inability to cope.
There are solutions and ways of coping that can range from journaling or deep breathing exercises to more creative solutions.
Teten said one of her patients who had been struggling with school phobia was able to cope with the situation and attend class after it was determined that, simply by using a different door to enter the school, that student’s anxiety was relieved.
By not dealing with mental health issues, parents put at risk their student’s chances of success in the classroom.
Brian Hoover, principal of Nebraska City High School, conducts a survey of his incoming freshman each year and noted several traits that are shared by students who are successful in school and in life.
Successful students, the survey showed, missed four or less days per semester, completed homework at a designated spot in the home, had done their homework in middle school and had a trusted adult, outside of school or their parents who they trust and who was interested in that student and his or her accomplishments or activities.
The survey found that kids who failed two or more classes in the sixth grade were not as likely to graduate on time as those who passed those classes.
Finally, the survey noted that 84 percent of a student’s life is spent outside the school environment. That means the problems can’t be pushed on school professionals. Problems have to be dealt with at home.
How do you do that?
Teten advised parents to be involved in the lives of their children by talking to teachers and engaging kids about their social environment and also by watching and monitoring their activities online.
More information about the mental health presentation is available by contacting EDGE Nebraska City by email at edgenebcitgmail.com.