Talking to Kids About Mental Health

Here’s the bad news: Many millions of children in the United States deal with some type of mental illness. Here are some numbers:

9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis.
7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.
7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.
3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.

Source: Children’s Mental Health

That’s a lot of kids! But here’s the good news: stigma around mental illness and psychological disorders is decreasing as more programs take aim at eradicating incorrect assumptions about mental health disorders and their treatments.

One of the best ways we can combat stigma around mental illness is by talking to our kids early and often about mental health and illness, as well as psychological treatment. The more we normalize these types of discussions, the better. Here are some tips for talking to your kids about mental health:


Be open about your own emotions. One way to help your kids become used to sharing their emotions, is by sharing your own on a regular basis. In a developmentally appropriate manner (i.e., using simple brief concepts with young kids, and progressively more complex words and concepts with older kids), try talking clearly about your own feelings: “Geez, that hurt my feelings when I didn’t get invited to Jenny’s birthday party,” or “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the work deadlines I have this month,” or “I am so proud of the hard work you put into that homework assignment”


Be open about how you manage your psychological health. Try sharing with your kids what you do to manage your mental mental health. Sharing things like: “I’m going to be taking a walk this evening. It was a tough day at work, and the fresh air helps me feel less stressed.” or “I am feeling a little down today, I think I might call Grandma. Talking to her always helps me feel better.” Again, we want to keep these conversations developmentally appropriate, and our kids aren’t our therapists. However, sharing the healthy strategies we use to manage our emotions will provide them a template for when they need strategies to manage their own psychological health.


Make talking about mental health an everyday thing. We don’t need to talk about the state of our kids’ mental health every single day, but it’s best if it can be a pretty regular occurrence – say, a couple of times per week, for example. We want to get to a point where speaking about emotions and mental health is just as easy and normal as talking about the soccer team, your favorite TV show or the new super hero movie you want to see. Here are some questions to get you started:
”What are you excited about these days?”
“What’s on your mind right now?”
“How would you describe your mood today?”
“What are you worried about?”

The possibilities are endless, and each family needs to find their own, unique language for talking about mental health. But here’s a quick tip: Try asking questions that are open-ended, these tend to produce much more interesting conversations than those that can be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.”

Some ideas about mental health resources

A big part of my job is connecting people with resources for helping and maintaining good mental health. The mental health system in the United States in enormous, not very well connected, poorly understood, and hard to access. There are a lot of resources out there (many are even very low cost or free!) but they can be hard to find if you’re not immersed in the mental health community. And really, who is?

I’ve compiled a list of some resources that I have found helpful over the years. Do you have more to add? Let me know!

Mental Health America – This is a large non-profit organization that supports Americans living with mental illness. I love their list of support groups – the include groups for about a million different concerns all over the country. Check it out.

Medicare – Medicare is the government-sponsored health insurance program for older Americans. Millions and millions of Americans use their Medicare coverage everyday to access health care of all types. Did you know Medicare also covers mental health treatment? Check it out to find a provider.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA): SAMHSA is an amazing group that has an overwhelming amount of helpful information on their website. I actually find myself using SAMHSA’s information about mental health disorders and treatment all the time. I recently found this very useful list of treatment providers who can assist people who emerging serious mental illness – and believe me, providers like this can be hard to find! Check it out!

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI): NAMI is a nation-wide organization providing support to folks dealing with mental health issues. They actually offer many wonderful diagnosis-specific support groups around the country. They have a comprehensive list here.

What resources am I missing?

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Are you a podcast listener?

I love listening to podcasts! I took me a while to get into it, but now I’m hooked. You know what’s also fun? Being on a podcast! I have gotten the opportunity to be on several different podcasts over the years, and one of my favorites is Produce for Kids’ podcast: The Healthy Family Project. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s worth a listen!

They have a number of new episodes up, including Food as Medicine and How to Get Kids in the Kitchen – along with their huge collection of awesome, healthy and easy recipes. Check it out!

Want to hear one of my interviews? Check out this one about promoting healthy body image in kids:

New Office

Just a reminder that I have moved my office to:

671 Mitchell Way

Suite 109

Erie 80516

All contact info is the same:

stephaniesmithpsyd@gmail.com and 303-828-3080

Here are some photos from my new place:

Main Lobby
Waiting room – Come on in and have a seat!
My new (little!) office. Cozy and quiet, with views of Stop and Save (!!) and the occasional critter outside the window. Welcome!

Using Your Employee Benefits for Mental Health Care

Accessing and paying for mental health care can be tricky. Many mental health professionals do not work directly with insurance, and those who do can have very long wait lists. But did you know that there are some other ways you can pay for mental health care with the assistance of employer-run programs?

  1. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These programs are offered by many employers (large and small). EAPs allow employees to see a contracted mental health professional for 3-10 sessions per year free of charge. Yes, free! Too often, employees don’t know this is a benefit to which they are entitled. So ask your manager or HR department for more information.
  2. Health Savings Accounts/Flex Spending Accounts/Medical Savings Accounts. These aren’t technically a benefit as this is money that you put away pre-tax to use for approved medical expenses. So, your employer doesn’t (usually) give you the money for the accounts, but many do facilitate the opening of such an account. Again, ask your manager or HR department for details.

Need more ideas about how to make the most of your employee benefits? Check out my recent article over at Health eCareers:

Photo credit: Health eCareers

Jealous of Your Co-Workers? How to Cope

Have you ever felt jealous of a co-worker?

Maybe they:

Are more appreciated than you

Have moved up the ladder faster than you

Seem to have more of everything (money, success, friends, possessions) than you

Appear better at their job than you

Photo Credit: Health eCareers

Whatever the specifics, it’s actually not all that unusual to have feelings of jealousy – particularly at work as we spend so much time with our co-workers. But what can you do to tame the green monster?

Check out my recent article over at Health eCareers for ideas about to 1) decipher why exactly you’re having jealous feelings 2) what to do about them.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

To read the entire article, head over to Health eCareers

Photo Credit: Health eCareers


Trouble with Anger at Work?

Does work make you angry? Do you have trouble controlling your temper with your co-workers? Do you lost your cool on a regular basis?

Angry outbursts aren’t just annoying, unprofessional and upsetting to everyone; high levels of anger have also been linked to a number of health problems. These include increased risk for: heart attacks, heart disease and strokes. High levels of anger have also been linked to a weakened immune system.

I recently wrote an article on Health eCareers offering tips for how to manage your anger at work in particular. Here’s one tip:

Want more ideas about how to manage your irritability at work? Check out the entire article here:

Photo credit: Health eCareers

I’m Moving!

Big announcement! I am moving!

After 13 years on Briggs Street in Old Town Erie, I am moving to a new location. As of June 1, 2019 I will be moving my practice to:

671 Mitchell Way

Suite 109.

I am sad to be leaving The Gateway Building, and the community of Old Town Erie businesses I have enjoyed watching grow and thrive over the last decade plus. However, I am excited to move into a newer building with plenty of parking and a spacious waiting room!

All of my contact information will remain the same:

303-828-3080

stephaniesmithpsyd@gmail.com

Can’t wait to see you in my new space!

Options for Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

In my last post I wrote about how to determine if you (or someone else) is using alcohol in a problematic way. In this post, I would like to talk about options for treatment. Because there are a lot.

We all know about AA, and 30 day residential programs, but there are so many more options available as well. In a recent article over at Health eCareers, I outline several of the most common treatment options, including: detox, inpatient, intensive outpatient and medically-assisted treatment. I also talk about individual psychotherapy, which is often an important part of a treatment plan:



For more information, check out the entire article at:
https://www.healthecareers.com/article/career/help-for-patients-struggling-with-alcohol-addiction

In my practice, I often work with folks struggling with addiction. If you would like to talk more about how individual psychotherapy can help with sobriety, please give me a call at 303-828-3080.