As parents of tweens and teens, we must have so many challenging conversations with our children. We talk to them about the dangers of smoking, alcohol and drugs. We speak to them about their maturing bodies and responsible dating. We talk about limiting their Internet exposure and their screen time. And that’s just a short list. Even with the importance of all of these conversations, there’s one topic that we collectively miss the mark with – the mental health of our children. Amid all of these well-intentioned talks and concerns about other topics, 1 in 5 of our children are experiencing a mental illness. And when the possible outcome of an undiagnosed mental illness can literally be the difference between life and death, it’s not a topic we should or can ignore. The Strong Minds and Happy Hearts program helps bring awareness and the needed attention to this critical issue.
Created by One in Five Minds and supported by Clarity Child Guidance Center, the Strong Minds and Happy Hearts program educates parents, provides resources and helps start the conversation about children’s mental health. This free program is open to any school in San Antonio and surrounding areas that would like to participate. Strong Minds and Happy Hearts is a two-and-a-half-hour long program, which includes a light meal and an agenda filled with talks by subject matter experts and break out sessions. They are held in the evening hours and childcare is provided, helping busy parents carve out the time to attend.
Many times, parents and community members hesitate to speak up or ask the important questions about mental illness because of stigma. One mother expressed, “When you have children or a child with mental illness, you feel like nobody understands…you go home to your house, and you tell everybody that everything is okay, and you lie. You’re ashamed because you think nobody else can be going through this. But the truth is there are so many families that go through this every day.” She continued, “Once they educate themselves and see other moms and dads are dealing with it, it’s so helpful.”
Parents from Memorial High School in Edgewood ISD, Stevens High School in Northside ISD and Kitty Hawk Middle School in Judson ISD have all participated in a Strong Minds and Happy Hearts session and have given the program rave reviews. Here is what one parent had to say, “I loved knowing it (the program) was open to everyone, and that I wasn’t alone in my worry about my child.” With information tables and representatives from Clarity Child Guidance Center, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas, National Alliance of Mental Illness and more, parents had immediate access to valuable information from caring and knowledgeable experts. Another parent stresses her appreciation of the participating organizations, “I was able to get a lot of resources for my family and others. I’m going to call on them to get help and learn more.”
The next time you are counting the topics that you have to address with your child, please remember to include the talk about mental illness. Talking about and sharing the information that we have is one way that we, as a society, can help conquer the stigma and get our children the help that they need. Strong Minds and Happy Hearts helps you start that conversation. The One in Five Minds campaign plans to host three to four of these events per year. If you’d like to know when the next Strong Minds and Happy Hearts event will take place please follow One in Five Minds on Facebook or email Brenda Pena at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.