Model Mindful Thinking for Kids

“I wish people went to therapy at least once in their lives, everybody; I wish it was a requirement,” said Highland Park High School personal counselor Dr. Candice Conner.

Why is it so hard for some of us to take care of our brains like we take care of our bodies? And why does fear and stigma still exist around mental health treatment?

I grew up in therapy, but I have friends whose families were so against it that my friends went untreated until they were old enough to advocate for themselves and get care. I remember thinking: “Why are your parents be so opposed?” I still don’t have the answer.

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute is trying to address our inclination to hide our mental illnesses. On Feb. 29, the institute launched an “Okay to Say” campaign with the support of big names such as Emmitt Smith and Mark Cuban. According to Meadows, nine in 10 Texans think it’s harder to talk about a mental condition than a physical condition.

“I’m old enough to remember when women didn’t talk about having breast cancer. Now it’s OK to say you have breast cancer. We need to get to the point where it’s OK to say, ‘I need help.’ It’s OK to say, ‘I’m dealing with depression,’” says institute founder Tom Luce in their launch video.

As a society, we’ve changed the way we talk about cancer. Why not this? I encourage you to give some thought this month to how you speak about mental illness. And while you do, think about what it means to live mindfully.

The idea comes from my grandmother, who says just saying the word aloud slowly can help her feel centered. We can’t all cure cancer and we can’t all cure mental illnesses, but we can all perform self checks and be aware of our here and now.

Think mindfully about if you are modeling good stress management, good time management, healthy relationships, and healthy alcohol use to your kids. “If you run, and run, and run, and never give yourself a break and you’re all stressed out, that’s what you’re modeling for your kids,” said Vanita Halliburton, of the Grant Halliburton Foundation.

Proper modeling also means if you are struggling, that there is no shame in going to therapy. And if you don’t know what your child is suffering from, there is no shame in asking a professional or a friend for help.

“I think the most important thing I would want particularly parents to know is just don’t be afraid to reach out and address whatever the issue is, whether you think it’s small or big, because that is where the child has the best hope of getting better,” said Laurie Hitzelberger, principal of Highland Park Middle School.

I was talking to a friend last weekend who lives with clinical depression. She says she has checkups with her therapist just like when she goes to get a physical. I love that. We take care of our bodies, let’s take care of our brains.

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