Recognizing Mental Health Changes in Children

Community members received a lesson on how to prevent mental illness in children

FARGO, N.D. — While some mental illnesses can’t be controlled due to genetics, there are some than can be preventable.

Any adult dealing with a child who is battling mental illness in some way shape or form was invited to the Youth Mental Health First Aid 8 Hour course.

The goal of the course is to enlighten adults on how to better assist young people who might be developing a mental health condition or experiencing a crisis.

For some, the most difficult part is distinguishing if there’s really a problem or not.

“But how can we distinguish what’s normal and what’s abnormal and what may be a sign that someone needs help and may be developing a mental condition?” asked Ashley Ladbury Hrichena, who is a training and education coordinator with FirstLink.

The acronym, ‘ALGEE’ was used in demonstrating an action plan in going about dealing with mental health.

ALGEE stands for assessing for risk of suicide or harm, listening non-judgmentally, giving reassurance and information, encouraging appropriate professional help and encouraging self-help and other support strategies.

“Most mental health disorders begin in adolescents or youth,” said Hrichena.

Many kids love social media and technology but this may be stopping the experts from figuring out if there’s a mental illness involved.

“Technology or the TV set is huge on them and we try to teach them that technology isn’t the most important part of their life,” said Katy Van Dyke, who is a shelter staff member with YouthWorks.

Van Dyke says teaching children that having relationships with people is a huge step in reducing mental illnesses.

“The youth of today is what we see in years coming,” said Van Dyke.

While there are specific learning tools geared towards teaching the community about mental illnesses, there’s also one easy step which can help raise awareness.

“I think hearing other people’s stories and learning from other people really helps reduce the stigma of dealing with a mental health condition,” said Hrichena.

Also, let youth know they’re not alone.

“Try and get them on the right track and let them know there’s many positive things about them and they’re not bad people,” said Van Dyke.

Just over half of children aged 8-15 received mental health services in within the previous year.

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