Psychology

Prairie High School event helps parents learn to support teen mental health

BRUSH PRAIRIE — Counselors met Wednesday in the Prairie High School library and reminded parents that they are not alone in supporting their children through mental health challenges.

Prairie High School staff, in partnership with Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance and Battle Ground Public Schools, hosted a Teen Mental Fitness night on Wednesday, providing education and connecting families through resources.

To reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, organizers decided to use the term “mental fitness” interchangeably with “mental health,” said Marla Caesar, a school counselor at Prairie High School.

Prairie High School counselors led a library workshop on topics such as warning signs of mental illness or substance use; suicide prevention; substance use prevention; how to support and connect with your teen; and what resources exist at the community and school level.

In the hallway outside the library, some community organizations set up booths to provide information about the services they offer — a Teen Talk staff member handed out flyers, someone from the Battle Ground Public Schools Family and Community Resource Center had a table full of goodies and pamphlets and other stalls offering youth mental health services were there to provide information to parents.

“The purpose of the event is to educate parents about teen mental health,” said Jennifer Kirby, coordinator of Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance. “It’s really important that we talk about mental health and let parents know that resources are available.”

While resources and support are offered at the school, the event came in part from a recognition that sometimes there is a greater need, Caesar said. One of the best ways to help students is through a support team, including the school, community resources and their families, she said.

During the presentation, school counselors outlined a number of signs to watch for that may indicate that your child is struggling with their mental health. Some of these signs include: a change in their sleeping habits, feelings of hopelessness, major changes in behavior, drinking or drug use, and anger. The counselors encouraged parents to contact the school or a medical provider if necessary.

“You’re not alone in this,” Caesar said in the presentation.

‘Acknowledge, give and talk’

Presenters taught parents about the ACT strategy, a method to use when concerned about someone’s mental health, which Prairie High School students also learn.

ACT stands for acknowledging, giving and talking. The method encourages people to first acknowledge the signs that someone is struggling, then show that you care, and finally talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options.

Throughout the evening, the presenters focused on a theme: reducing the stigma around mental health by encouraging parents to talk to their children and gauge their emotions.

“Normalizing these conversations in our homes can help them,” Caesar said.

According to Caesar, one of the best ways to offer support is to listen to teens and validate their feelings. She recommended asking open-ended questions such as “how are you feeling” rather than “yes or no” questions to create space for your teen to feel comfortable sharing.

Get some help

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, text ACT at 741741, or visit ccteentalk.clark.wa.gov/resources for a list of community resources.

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