Denver Area Mental Health Center Shares Tips for Explaining Depression to Children

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 16.2 million adults in the U.S. have at least one episode of what is known as major depression each year. That number equates to 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S.

Not only does the condition affect the adults who have it, depression can also have a significant impact on the children in their life. Historically, depression was a condition that adults struggled to acknowledge and talk about even among themselves, and it was generally kept hidden as much as possible from children. What we now understand is that children sense that there is a problem even if it is not revealed to them. We also know that sharing age-appropriate information on a loved one’s depression can help children better cope with the challenges that the illness presents.

Planning is Important When Talking With Kids About Depression

Children can benefit from being educated about what depression is and how its symptoms affect their loved ones. However, it is important for parents or other caregivers to prepare for that conversation. This includes:

  • Talking with other adults first. If you plan to have a conversation with your child about depression, you should first talk with friends, loved ones or a counselor about what should be shared and how it might be received.
  • Considering who should talk with the child. It is best if information about a loved one’s mental illness comes from someone the child trusts and respects.
  • Thinking about the right place. Where will the child feel comfortable and undistracted having this talk?
  • Choosing the right time. The conversation should take place at a time after which a loved one will be available to answer follow-up questions and provide support.

Strategies for Helping a Child Understand Depression

When you talk with a child about depression, here are some things you can to do ensure that it is a positive and productive conversation:

  • Help them understand that depression is an illness that can be treated. However, explain that the treatment will take time.
  • Emphasize that depression is not something the child or the loved one with the condition should feel guilty or embarrassed about. Many families have been touched in some way by depression, so other people can surely relate.
  • Let them know that depression can cause a person to say or do things they wouldn’t say or do when they are well.
  • Be sure they understand that their loved one’s depression is in no way caused by the child.
  • Encourage them to ask any questions they have about depression and to be open about how the loved one’s condition is making them feel.
  • Reassure them that there are many adults in their life—family members, relatives, counselors at school, etc.—who will support them as their loved one works through the process of getting well.

The First Conversation Should Not be the Last

It often takes time for a child to process what they learn about depression. It is important that you check in with them periodically to see if they have questions or concerns as the implications of their loved one’s diagnosis become clearer to them. It is also important that while you explain the serious nature of depression, you also encourage an upbeat outlook on treatment and focus on the person’s future health and happiness.

How a Mental Health Center Can Help

October is a month in which there are a number of observances to draw attention to the challenges of mental illness, including Mental Illness Awareness Week, National Depression Screening Day and World Mental Health Day. This makes it a great time to talk with a child about depression, as you can point to all the work being done to help adults and kids achieve better mental health.

At Community Reach Center, our trained counselors can help parents and other caregivers understand the best way to have a conversation with a child about depression. We can also participate in that conversation or provide follow-up support. Visit communityreachcenter.org or by call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

 

How to Care for Your Mental Health in Retirement

Mature man sitting at desk

Most people who have full-time careers look forward to the day that they can retire. Reaching that milestone is certainly an accomplishment and something to be celebrated. However, the transition into retirement is a major life change, and like any change, it can present mental and emotional challenges. At our mental health clinic, we encourage those approaching retirement age to give some thought to steps they can take to stay happy, healthy and well-adjusted as they advance into this new phase of life.

Tips for Making the Move Into Retirement

For most people, the number one concern as their chosen retirement date approaches is whether they will have enough money to take care of their physical needs after they stop working. That is an important determination to make. However, it is also crucial to think about how you will address your mental and emotional needs. Below are 10 proven tips for increasing overall well-being in retirement.

  1. Decide what you want out of retirement. Do you want to travel extensively? Spend most of your time with family? Start a second career? Having a goal can keep you challenged and focused, and both are good for your mental health.
  2. Do the math. As noted above, there should be more to retirement than simple survival. If you can, be sure you have the funds you need to support an enjoyable lifestyle.
  3. Confirm your plans with your partner, if you have one. Happiness starts at home. If your partner isn’t on board with your approach to retirement, it can be a stressful situation.
  4. Pick your retirement date and stick to it. Whether out of a sense of obligation to keep working or a fear of what comes next, it’s easy to put your retirement on hold indefinitely. Unfortunately, doing so may leave you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.
  5. Tend to your physical health. Do your best to stay healthy. Medical concerns – especially about conditions that could have been avoided – can adversely affect your mental health.
  6. Consider part-time employment or volunteer work. Having endless days with no obligations may sound like a dream come true. However, most people find that they are happier when they have some recurring items on their calendar and are making a contribution to society in some form. A sense of purpose is key to happiness.
  7. Stay connected with old friends and ideally make some new ones. The love and support you feel when you spend time with people you care about is good for your mental health. Making new acquaintances is also good for your wellbeing and provides some variety.
  8. Maintain a schedule. Even if you aren’t working or volunteering, it is a good idea to stick to a schedule to some degree. Committing to tasks like gardening every other morning for an hour and walking the dog daily in the afternoon provides a healthful lifestyle.
  9. Spend time with family regularly. If you live near your children or grandchildren, make time to see them on a regular basis. Even if you or they only have time for short visits, maintaining those relationships is very important.
  10. Pursue a new hobby or interest. Learning new things takes on a whole new feeling when you aren’t pressed for time and can relax and immerse yourself in the activity.

Putting the Shine on Your Golden Years

Even though you’ve stopped working, a happy, healthful life does require some work. Make a plan for how you will care for your mental health after retirement and you will get much more enjoyment out of the next chapter of your life.

If you are facing mental health challenges before or after you retire, you can connect with our mental health clinic at communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500 to learn more about our services, and please have a look at our array of Senior Reach services located on our website. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Social Media and Mental Health: Tips on Setting Boundaries

Woman typing on computer

Social media platforms can be helpful for keeping in touch with family and friends. Seeing photos and videos of events you couldn’t attend or major life changes can make you feel more connected and up to date. However, social media use, especially excessive use, has its negative side as well. At our mental health center in the Denver area, we encourage the people we work with to set safe and healthy boundaries regarding the use of social media.

How Social Media can Hurt Your Mental Health

For all its positive benefits, social media can cause harm if not used properly. For example, social media use can:

  • Be addictive. For some people, social media use reaches a level where it has many of the characteristics of addiction, including that they are mentally preoccupied with it, they forego other life experiences to use it, they hide or downplay their use, and they use it to produce a mood alteration that they crave.
  • Decrease truly social behavior. While a person may have a large number of “friends” on social media, the hours required to maintain those online relationships will often cut into the amount of time spent with people in real-life settings.
  • Promote comparison. Frequently or continually comparing yourself to others is unhealthy. However, getting updates on all the fun things that your social media connections are doing tends to encourage that kind of behavior and the inevitable envy and jealousy.
  • Increase sadness and depression. There is growing evidence that social media use, which we believe will make us happy, can actually increase sadness, anxiety and depression.

5 Strategies for Setting Social Media Boundaries

Even when the intent of a social media platform is positive, excessive use can have a negative impact on mental health. Below are some ways to set boundaries.

  1. Give yourself permission to unplug. Checking social media can start to feel like a requirement. However, the reality is you have the right and the ability to choose when and how often you use it (or whether you use it at all). Simply acknowledging that fact can be very empowering.
  2. Set time limits. What’s a reasonable amount of time to spend on social media each day? Two hours? An hour? Thirty minutes? You have to decide. But once you choose a time limit, commit to sticking to it. Not only does that help you today, it also gives you a good baseline if you choose to cut back on social media at some point in the future.
  3. Cut ties with negative people and organizations. If interacting with or reading posts from a person or group doesn’t make you happy, but instead makes your blood boil, cut ties with them. It may feel good to vent after being fired up by their statements, but in the long term, that relationship is doing more harm than good for your mental health.
  4. Only contribute in a positive way. Lashing out at others or promoting negative thoughts or ideas do not just harm the target of your posts, it hurts you as well. The age-old advice that “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is very relevant with social media. Even if you are speaking out against something, you can do so in a positive way by offering alternatives rather than criticism. And sometimes prefacing with something like “I have another perspective” can prevent discussions from becoming adversarial.
  5. Provide and seek clarity in your communications. Social media doesn’t offer the physical cues we typically use to understand people. Consequently, a message where no offense was intended can easily be misinterpreted, and a negative reply can then create an escalation of tension that didn’t have to occur. Be as clear as you can in your communications, and if you feel a comment directed at you was negative in some way, politely ask for clarification. A question such as, “I took your comment to mean this… Did I have that right?” can help keep a conversation from spiraling into negativity.

Making Your Mental Health a Priority

The key to proper social media use is continually assessing how it is affecting your mental and emotional health. If your interactions are not encouraging and uplifting, you need to make a change. To learn more about our mental health center, visit communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Leading Denver Mental Health Center Says Enjoying ‘Recess’ Helps You Stay Centered

Colleagues walking outside

To say that the world today can be hectic or chaotic at times would be an understatement. Unfortunately, many adults have lost touch with one of the best tools for achieving or maintaining a sense of calmness and of being “centered.” That tool is play. Like adults, children face a number of stressors in their lives. They naturally turn to play as a way to release tension and temporarily free their mind of worries and concerns. However, since our adult daily lives are so consumed with work, family responsibilities and obligations that others rely on us to handle, making time for play isn’t as reflexive for adults as it is for children. Therefore, we need to make intentional choices to incorporate play into our routines.

The Many Benefits of Play

Ask any child what the best part of their school day is and they will almost certainly say, “Recess!” Whether you can work it into your schedule regularly or on an “as time permits” basis, taking a recess can be something that you, too, eagerly anticipate and from which you derive a variety of benefits, including:

  • Stress relief. True childlike play, away from your work, laptop and smartphone, can be an excellent way to shed your mental and emotional burdens for a few minutes.
  • Improved cognitive function and creativity. Adults who engage in playful activities often find that they have the unintended benefit of helping them think more clearly and creatively at work and elsewhere.
  • Increased energy. Even a brief midday play session can have a very positive impact on your energy level when you turn your attention to afternoon tasks.
  • Improved relationships. Nothing helps build or repair relationships like sharing laughs while playing games or enjoying adventures with one another.
  • Emotional healing. Not only is play a great way to relieve stress, it can help you release and move beyond emotional pains.
  • Improved teamwork. Many playful activities involve teamwork, a skill that can be diminished or lost for adults in our competitive culture. Reconnecting with the joy of shared victory can have a positive impact on many areas of life.

The Five-Minute Recess

Getting away from your tasks and your To Do list for 30-minutes or more can be very invigorating. However, when that’s not possible, even five minutes of “play” can be helpful. Having some interesting and engaging toys close at hand in your work environment (whether that is outside the home or at home) and allowing yourself to become completely engrossed in them for a few minutes here and there is a healthy habit to develop.

We know that play can certainly be a centering influence. Please keep it in mind. And if you have concerns about your mental health or a loved one, we are happy to talk with you and help with any counseling services. Get more information on our metro Denver mental health centers at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month with the Theme “Fitness #4Mind4Body”

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as Mental Health Month. The observance was founded in 1949 by an organization called Mental Health America. Along with providers of mental health services around the U.S., Mental Health America shares the message that the issues around mental health and mental illness affect us all.

This year’s theme is “Fitness #4Mind4Body.” The idea is that mental health is affected by many physical factors including diet and nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress, and that positive changes can be made in all those areas.

Risk Factors for Mental Illness

Another of the important messages that is shared every year during Mental Health Awareness Month is that while mental illness can strike anyone, various factors increase a person’s risk. They include:

  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy and birth problems
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of addiction
  • Personal history of abuse
  • Head trauma
  • Certain medical conditions including thyroid disorders
  • Lack of a support system
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Dysfunctional family dynamics
  • Involvement in negative peer groups
  • Homelessness
  • Learning disorders
  • Smoking

Knowing what these risk factors are can be helpful in different ways. For risk factors that can be changed, awareness is the first step in turning them into protective factors (see below). For risk factors that can’t be changed, such as family history, the knowledge that a person is more disposed to developing mental illness can help family and friends be more alert to recommend or arrange for mental health services if mental illness does develop.

Protective Factors for Mental Health

During Mental Health Awareness Month, participating organizations emphasize the importance of factors that can help protect people from mental illness and promote mental health and wellness. They include:

  • Genetics
  • Presence of a support network
  • Willingness and opportunity to discuss problems with friends, family and mental health professionals
  • Strong ties with immediate and extended family
  • Healthy expectations for school/work performance and life in general
  • Involvement in positive peer groups
  • Involvement in community activities Good physical health habits
  • Positive influence from religious or spiritual traditions

The encouraging thing about protective factors is that most of them involve choice, which means they can be initiated or amplified to provide great protection from mental illness. They can also have a positive impact even after a mental illness has developed.

Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness

Another important benefit of Mental Health Awareness Month is that the attention it brings to mental health issues helps to end the stigma of mental illness. Informational campaigns throughout the month provide strategies for eliminating the feelings of shame too often associated with mental health issues, making it easier for everyone to talk about these conditions.

It will be better for the individuals experiencing mental illness, and society as a whole, when it is universally understood that mental illness is no different than physical illness. Both types of conditions have a mix of known and unknown causes, treatments that are more effective in some cases than in others and a wide range of potential outcomes. And, all physical and mental health challenges are improved by compassion.

If you are in need of our mental health services, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

How Exercise Helps You Stay Centered

There are many definitions of what it means to be “centered,” but most contain elements of feeling calm, relaxed and confident. In general, it is a very positive state that can help us get the most out of good times and better navigate challenging times. So that’s what the term means, but as we tell people at our mental health center, there are as many ways to achieve that state as there are ways to talk about. One that many people find particularly helpful is exercise.

Your Unique Workout

The first thing to point out in talking about the mental health benefits of exercise is that every person’s “workout” is different. The type and amount of exercise that someone in their 20s can perform is probably much different than someone in their 60s. The point is that you don’t have to run 10 miles to achieve a more centered state. As long as you are moving to whatever degree your age and fitness level allow, exercise will be helpful.

How a Good Workout Can Change Your Perspective

Everyone from psychologists to physicians to exercise physiologists have studied the effect that a good workout has on the body, and there is agreement across the board: exercise can help you keep both your positive and negative experiences in perspective. Here are just some of the ways:

Elevated mood

Being centered doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. But, taking steps (literally) to support a more positive mood can help keep negative emotions from throwing you off balance. And the benefit is fairly immediate. Often within 10 minutes after moderate exercise, you will feel a lift.

Improved cognitive function

It can feel very jarring to realize you’ve forgotten something important like an appointment, a person’s name, etc. Exercise has been shown to help keep the brain healthy by preventing or slowing degeneration. The resulting confidence can leave a person feeling grounded and resilient.

Decreased fight-or-flight sensitivity

The physiological and emotional changes that take place when what’s known as our “fight-or-flight” reaction is triggered are normal. They evolved to help us challenge or flee threats. Some people have a heightened sensitivity to those changes that produce fear and anxiety. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce that sensitivity, allowing a person to be more alert as needed while still being calm and centered.

Increased self-esteem

The simple act of making a commitment to exercise regularly and then following through on that promise can be very rewarding. Whether you do a vigorous cross-training program or go for a daily walk around the block, sticking with it in good times and bad times can be a way of maintaining an important sense of control over your circumstances.

Take the First Step

One of the perplexing things about exercise is that even people who have experienced its many benefits can be reluctant to get started on any particular day. We know we’ll feel great when we finish a workout (and for hours or days after), but yet we drag our feet.

The best way—and sometimes the only way—to beat that sense of inertia is simply to start moving. For example, if you intend to go for a run, don’t envision the whole process, especially those first few minutes when your body is adjusting to the exertion. Just say to yourself, “I’m going to change into my running clothes right now.” Then, “I’m going to put on my shoes.” Before you know it, knocking off these easy initial steps has given you the momentum to head out the door.

Helping Denver-Area Residents Stay Centered

Guidance and support from a skilled counselor can be another important resource in your efforts to secure good mental health. Contact our mental health center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.