On May 5, 2021, MSG hosted a Facebook Live event to discuss youth mental health during the pandemic and strategies that parents and caregivers can use to help.
We had a fantastic selection of panelists to help answer questions and contribute to the hour-long conversation: Rachel Larkin from the Montgomery County Suicide Prevention Coalition and the EveryMind Crisis Hotline and Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, Founder, The AAKOMA Project, Inc., a youth mental health nonprofit.
For kids that struggled before the pandemic – things like eating disorders or depression from bullying – the disconnection has been especially difficult. When asked what parents or teachers should do to make sure the more vulnerable kids are OK, Ms. Larkin and Dr. Alfiee discussed how parents should talk to their children and model self-care. Parents can speak to their feelings, tell their children what their personal triggers and stressors are, and then show their children how they manage them. This will encourage kids to pay attention to their parents’ behavior and copy their positive behavior. The key is communicating with children in an age appropriate way and doing it consistently to destigmatize mental illness and to normalize mental health as an important part of their overall health.
The two panelists then explored peer-based strategies that can be helpful. Dr. Alfiee brought up various peer-based programs at the middle school, high school, and college levels, including Active Minds and Best Buddies. Ms. Larkin then mentioned utilizing positive communities online and on social media that discuss mental health in a positive way, including on Discord, an instant messaging and digital distribution platform designed for creating communities, and Twitch, a video live streaming platform. She recommended that parents find streamers and social media influencers that talk positively about mental health. Encouraging kids to join these online communities on platforms that they already use will make it easy for kids to add positive conversations about mental health into their daily lives.
In addition to discussing multiple other questions, Ms. Larkin and Dr. Alfiee also recommended a variety of strategies that parents can use to help their children, including modeling and encouraging self-care, having regular open conversations and check-ins with a child to see how they are feeling, and prioritizing good sleep hygiene and healthy eating habits.
The event concluded with a live question and answer session, where the guest panelists responded to audience inquiries, such as whether they thought our education system is going to remain flexible to allow children to continue with remote learning when things resume to full and open. The two panelists also recommended books to help children experiencing anxiety and culturally adapted approaches.
Watch the recording here.