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Kidsburgh launches new series with its Mental Health Survey report

Sally Quinn
March31/ 2020

Mental health is a topic that crosses all societal and economic boundaries, touching the lives of children throughout Pittsburgh. It’s why Kidsburgh has set a goal this year of publishing a series of stories on the subject.

To help Kidsburgh families in a most meaningful way, we wanted to find out more about mental health issues affecting you. In a recent Kidsburgh Mental Health Survey, we asked about your concerns, as parents. And we directed another part of the survey to educators and school administrators to see what insight they could offer.

We received 730 responses from parents and 260 from educators, including many honest and heartfelt comments, from both surveys. It was readily apparent that there is a need to focus on our children’s mental health alongside their physical well-being.

In short, it’s a big deal for everyone.

We’re excited to announce that a grant from Staunton Farm Foundation will fund a series of Kidsburgh stories that will help answer the concerns you voiced in our survey.

Here are highlights from the survey and what we learned:

From the list below, which topics do you see impacting your child’s mental health?

Parents’ definitions of mental health

The majority of parents described mental health in a positive light: Good mental health was viewed as the emotional, mental and stable enjoyment of life in the home, at school and personally. How well kids cope and adjust to the stressors in their lives was named as another indication of mental health. Resilience in the face of vulnerability, self-esteem and a positive attitude were also cited.

Some parents defined mental health as a problem or concern, diagnosis or disorder. Their characterization included social and behavioral issues, suffering from trauma, anxiety or depression, plus emotional difficulties.

Comments from the survey:

  • “To me, mental health speaks to their disposition for the majority of their waking hours. Are they happy, and resilient, or are they sad, lonely or depressed?”
  • “Caring for my children’s mental health is one of my top priorities. I do not believe you can lead a full, happy life until you are comfortable with yourself and strong enough to make positive choices.”
  • “My goal for my children is to have good social-emotional coping skills to navigate the best they can, but also to be in tune with their feelings enough to notice if they need additional help.”

From the list below, which stressors have you observed to be on the rise for youth in the past five years? 

Educators’ definitions of mental health

Educators mirrored the majority of parents in referring to mental health as the well-being of a child, including social-emotional, academic and career components. Mental health, they say, encompasses a student’s ability to cope with setbacks, handle anxiety-provoking situations, have a realistic and positive self-concept and the ability to work through perceptions vs. reality and problem-solving skills.

Comments from the survey:

  • “Mental health focuses on the whole child, not just how the child performs in school.”
  • “How the students are feeling on a given day can impact their learning or willingness to learn. My job is to help find out what might be bothering them.”
  • “Mental health is making sure my students feel happy and safe and that they know when to ask for help – academically, socially or cognitively.”

What parents want to learn about mental health

Many parents want to understand early signs to watch for that might signal developing problems. They want to know where to turn for help and how to take action. Some are looking for specific guidance about bullying, academic stress and anxiety about divorce. Other topics include dealing with social media, videogames and appropriate discipline.

Comments from the survey:

  • “I would like better resources from our school. Grades and tests are a huge stressor for my child.”
  • “I would like to see more curriculum about mental health for students. I would like to learn more about strategies parents can implement.”
  • “I am curious about how social media is impacting mental health and how to change that while also allowing kids to be like their peers.”

What educators wish parents knew about mental health

In the survey, most educators want to stress the importance and seriousness of a child’s mental health, but emphasize that these issues are treatable. It takes time, healing and intentional focus. Getting help does not suggest failure and shouldn’t be hidden or shamed. Mental health problems are common and just as important as a child’s physical health.

Comments from the survey:

  • “Don’t be ashamed to seek help for your child. It’s not an indication that you’re a ‘bad’ parent. It’s not always something your child ‘will grow out of.’ “
  • “Mental health problems are more pervasive than parents think. Students are getting information at lightning speed and have no time to process what they are taking in. I wish parents wouldn’t blow it off or minimize it.”
  • “It is OK for your child to see a counselor or therapist. So many parents are hesitant to have their child talk to someone, but it is so important for the kids to have a trusted adult who is trained to help them navigate the world while struggling with mental health.”

In months ahead

These survey highlights are just the beginning of the depth of information we’ve uncovered. We’re looking forward to bringing insightful stories to Kidsburgh and help to change the narrative. Information is power. And we plan to arm parents with the power they need to best support their kids.

The Staunton Farm Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of people who live with mental illness and/or substance use disorders. The Foundation’s vision is to invest in a future where behavioral health is understood, supported, and accepted

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is an award-winning writer and editor who has been covering her favorite city for more than 30 years. She appreciates all that Pittsburgh offers families and has a blast guiding her 10 grandkids to new discoveries. Sally welcomes your comments and story ideas for Kidsburgh.

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