Mental health issues are universally prevalent amongst children and adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental health disorder, equivalent to roughly 52.9 million people. While mental health issues continue to increase, they also become a concerning health topic more commonly talked about.
What Causes Mental Health Disorders?
At this time, scientists still struggle to determine a person’s risk of inheriting mental health disorders. However, what they do know is there is no single cause for mental illness, and a combination of genetics and environment is typically at play. This suggests that by changing a child’s environment, mental health disorders can be prevented.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) page on “Mental Disorders,” individuals exposed to adverse experiences are more at risk for developing mental health disorders. Adverse circumstances can include:
- Exposure to substance abuse problems
- Exposure to mental health problems
Emotional skills are also part of a person’s environment. If an individual has not been taught to identify and cope with feelings properly, they are more at risk of developing mental health problems.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Scientists have long recognized that many psychiatric disorders tend to run in families, suggesting potential genetic roots.” However, the research behind genetics and mental health disorders is complex.
Can Mental Health Problems Be Prevented?
According to Youth.gov, mental health promotion is optimizing mental health by addressing the factors of positive mental health before any specific mental health issue is identified. The goal is to improve the population’s overall mental health. By encouraging protective factors and healthy behaviors in children, we can work to prevent mental health disorders and risk factors in the future.
Mental health can be promoted early on by:
- Conducting early intervention for pregnant women and pre-school psychological activities
- Providing support for children through skill-building programs and child and youth development programs
- Providing programs for vulnerable groups, including minorities and people affected by conflicts and disasters
- Encouraging the incorporation of mental health activities in schools
- Violence prevention programs
Promoting mental health in children can lead to positive outcomes by providing opportunities to learn about mental health while fostering positive relationships to earn the support needed to build leadership skills.
How to Ensure Healthy Coping Mechanisms in Children
Changing a child’s environment starts with teaching them healthy coping mechanisms. Teaching a child healthy physical and emotional coping mechanisms at a young age is essential to their development. By teaching children healthy coping skills, you can help them navigate stress from school pressure and throughout their lives.
According to Psych Central’s article “Coping Skills to Help Kids Manage Stress,” since children and teens are only starting to learn how to process their emotions, expressing them and asking for help can be difficult. “Coping skills help kids understand how to face tough situations, understand and manage their emotions, and work toward regulating stress in their minds and bodies.”
Healthy Coping Skills to Teach
Many healthy coping skills can be taught to individuals to improve their mental well-being.
Emotional coping skills often involve mindfulness exercises. Being mindful means being present in the moment. You can practice being present by simply sitting in a quiet room, placing your feet on the ground, and focusing on your breathing. This exercise can be done one minute at a time throughout the day.
Another healthy coping skill involves positive self-talk. Positive self-talk can improve self-esteem, critical thinking skills, emotions, and self-image.
Giving children an outlet to be creative while expressing their feelings in a journal can also benefit their mental well-being. Journaling can help a child or individuals learn more about themselves. It can also help them regulate their emotions and strengthen their self-reflection skills.
How to Model a Healthy Lifestyle
When adults model healthy behaviors, they can change the environment around them. As a result, individuals can work toward preventing mental health problems in children and other family members.
According to NIH News in Health, to live a healthy lifestyle, it is essential to be aware of what you do regularly. Doing something regularly, such as brushing your teeth in the morning or smoking during breaks, becomes a habit. Research indicates that repetitive behaviors that make you feel temporarily good can become difficult habits to break.
However, you can break unhealthy habits and replace them with good ones by creating a plan for yourself. Creating plans to break bad habits can include avoiding temptations and instead surrounding yourself with people who encourage and practice healthy habits.
Keeping yourself on track can be challenging in the beginning. Learning self-discipline and self-control takes practice and becomes easier as you progress. However, by changing your life, you can change the lives of those around you.
Mental health issues are common worldwide. While a combination of genetics and environment causes mental health disorders, it is believed that it is possible for mental health issues to be prevented by changing the environment. By encouraging healthy behaviors and coping mechanisms in children, we can prevent mental health issues in the future and decrease risk factors for mental illness. Giving children the tools for a healthy mentality can provide positive outcomes by allowing them to learn about mental health and strengthen positive relationships. However, if you or a loved one are struggling with mental health concerns, Alter Wellness San Diego Crisis Intervention can help. Located in San Diego, California, we can help you stabilize your mental health to move forward towards healing. Our mission is to help you start your journey towards long-term well-being. For more information on our services, call us today at (866) 986-1481.