When we hear the words “mental health,” we often think of illnesses or disorders. Generally, conversations around psychological and emotional health happen most frequently when there are problems. In the case of girls, that might be low self-esteem, negative body image, and unfortunately the impacts of trauma. Fortunately, mental health can be addressed and improved in the same way physical health can be.
Netflix recently released Season 2 of its popular series, “13 Reasons Why,” which explores the serious topics of suicide, rape, bullying and teen substance abuse. Season 1 drew widespread attention and ensuing conversation on its impact on young people. In fact, after its release in 2017, total searches for suicide-related terms went up 19 percent. For girls, access to information, resources and support can literally be life saving.
Parents and other trusted adults can help girls understand and embrace good mental health, including healthy stress management, to help reduce negative health consequences, including self-harm. This proactive, prevention approach to mental health gives girls the knowledge and skills to be active agents in their health and wellness. It prepares them for the realities they face and builds a foundation for their long-term well-being.
Here are 3 tips on how you can help girls adopt and maintain positive mental health.
1. Talk about stress.
It is important for girls to understand that stress is a normal and acceptable part of life, and that positive or healthy stress management helps girls deal with the issues they face. Help girls identify personal warning signs/symptoms of stress and positive methods for releasing feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration.
2. Stand up against bullying.
Bullying can cause lasting harm. Encourage children and teens to report if they are experiencing bullying or knows someone who is being harassed. Just as society does not expect victims of other types of abuse to “deal with it on their own,” we should not expect this from victims of bullying or harassment.
3. Stay vigilant.
Stigma surrounding mental health can make it harder for girls to recognize or admit they need help. If you see or suspect something, no matter how slight it seems, share your observations with her. And never discount talks or threats of suicide.