May is Mental Health Awareness Month

  • Child Development
  • Health and Wellness
Cindy Hewatt, School Counselor, LMFT

As we come to the last few weeks of a very unique and challenging school year, it is a great time to be aware of our own, and our children’s, mental health.  We have seen here at Aspen Academy what schools are seeing nationwide, an increase in anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.  What I like to tell our students is that there are no “bad” feelings, all feelings are there for a reason, it is how we are able to manage those feelings that can be healthy or lead to more challenges. 

In a year where there have been fewer opportunities to connect with others, to do the things we love, and experienced a greater sense of uncertainty, it’s understandable that people may be more challenged than ever to cope with their feelings.  Many people have experienced losses of loved ones or friends during the last year and are experiencing grief as well.

Some things to watch out for in yourself or others are:

  • Increased feelings of sadness that you just can’t shake, that last longer and are deeper than what you usually experience.
  • Changes in your sleeping patterns, sleeping more or less than usual
  • Changes in your eating habits, and this can lead to either weight gain or weight loss
  • A loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Isolating yourself
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or others

If you are experiencing several of these symptoms, talk to someone, let them know you're struggling.  If you see these behaviors in someone else, check in on them. If you're concerned they may hurt themselves, ask them about it. Contrary to popular belief, asking will not lead to them harming themselves, but it could save their life by leading to them getting connected with services. 

Being and feeling connected to others or a community is one way to increase your mental health.  Loneliness is one of the biggest contributors to depression/mental health challenges according to a recent survey by Mental Health America.  So, the end of the school year can bring the relaxation of summer, but also for our kids, the end to a daily opportunity to see and be with friends.  Finding ways for kids to connect and interact with other kids can be challenging in the time of COVID, but with a greater number of people being vaccinated, and the opportunity to be outdoors, take advantage of playdates, visit family and find safe ways to re-engage in activities you all love. 

Remember taking care of ourselves can combat depression and anxiety.  Exercise is a great way to release endorphins in the brain that help us feel good.  Taking a 30 minute walk each day has great benefits for your body and your mind.  Eat healthy, get a good night's rest.  When you're tired and for example, living on fast food and soda your body isn't getting the nutrients it needs and your body has less resources to manage stress when it’s tired. 

If you or someone you know is struggling and need to talk to someone the National Suicide Prevention Life Line is 1-800-273-8255. 

Let's all work to break the stigma of seeking help for mental health challenges!  Think of it the same way you think of setting up an appointment for the doctor or dentist, or even your eye doctor.  If something is changing and making things harder for you or someone you love, reach out to them, but also get professional resources for them.  Normalizing this for ourselves and for our kids helps them see that mental health is just like any other need they may have, and talking to someone can help build tools to cope and manage those challenging feelings. 

This resource may provide additional insights to support you and your student:

Processing Big Changes tip sheet from MHM Toolkit

 

If you are interested and would like referrals for therapists or other resources reach out to Cindy Hewatt at cindy.hewatt@aspenacademy.org or at 303.346.3500 x115.

 

For more on Elevate Team that supports students, click here.

 

About the Author

Cindy Hewatt, School Counselor, LMFT

Cindy holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has been a practicing clinician for over 20 years, with almost all of that being in non-profit/alternative school settings. She has worked with children from preschool to high school and enjoys each developmental stage for its own strengths and challenges. Aspen Academy drew Cindy with its small class sizes and custom learning approach for each child. With the understanding that each child has their unique talents, strengths and struggles, it is our privilege to help each student find their best selves by providing a safe, creative and enriched environment.

Outside of school Cindy enjoys spending time with her daughter, a new Aspen Academy student, Ellie. Cindy also enjoys creating art, cooking, reading and exploring the outdoors.