BRUSH PRAIRIE — Gathered in the library at Prairie High School on Wednesday, counselors reminded parents that they are not alone in supporting their children through mental health struggles.
Prairie High School staff, in collaboration with Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance and Battle Ground Public Schools, hosted a Teen Mental Fitness night Wednesday, providing education and connecting families to resources.
Seeking to reduce stigma around mental health, organizers decided to use the term “mental fitness” interchangeably with “mental health,” according to Marla Caesar, a school counselor at Prairie High School.
Prairie High School counselors led a workshop in the library covering topics including warning signs of mental health conditions or substance use; suicide prevention; substance use prevention; how to support and connect with your teenager; and what community and school-based resources exist.
In the hallway outside the library, some community-based organizations set up booths providing information about 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 booths with mental health services for youth were there to provide information to parents.
“The goal of the event is to educate parents about teen mental health,” said Jennifer Kirby, coordinator for Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance. “It’s really important that we’re talking about mental health and letting parents know that there are resources available.”
While there are resources and support offered at school, the event partly stemmed from the recognition that there is sometimes a bigger need, according to Caesar. 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 some signs to look out for that may indicate your child is struggling with their mental health. Some of these signs include: a change in their sleeping habits, feelings of hopelessness, big changes in behavior, drinking or drug use and anger. The counselors encouraged parents to reach out to the school or a medical provider if needed.
“You are not alone in this,” Caesar said in the presentation.
‘Acknowledge, care and tell a trusted adult’
Presenters taught parents about the ACT strategy, a method to use if you are concerned about someone’s mental health, that Prairie High School students are also taught.
ACT stands for acknowledge, care and tell a trusted adult. The method encourages people to first acknowledge the signs that someone may be struggling, then show that you care and finally talk to an adult.
Throughout the night, the presenters focused on a theme of reducing the stigma surrounding mental health by encouraging parents to talk with their children and check in on their emotions.
“Normalizing these conversations in our home can help them,” Caesar said.
One of the best ways to offer support is by listening to teenagers and validating their feelings, according to Caesar. She recommended asking open-ended questions such as “how are you feeling” instead of “yes or no” questions to create a space for your teenager to feeling comfortable sharing.
To get help
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, text ACT to 741741 or visit ccteentalk.clark.wa.gov/resources for a list of community resources.