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5 Tips to Help Men of Color Talk About Mental Health Issues With Their Children


Mental health issues affect everyone, especially men of color and their families. A recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that 22.4 percent of people of color have dealt with a mental illness within the past year. That’s why it’s important for us to talk about these issues with our children.

In communities of color, there is often a stigma surrounding mental health. Talking to your kids about mental health issues can feel uncomfortable at times. The goal is not to have a deep discussion about depression, but to help your children know they can rely on you if they ever need support with their mental health challenges or just feel overwhelmed. Here are 5 tips to help men of color talk about mental health issues with their children.

1. Address your own mental health issues.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to getting help.  If your child knows that you are going through a difficult time and are taking steps to resolve it, they will feel more comfortable talking to you about their mental health problems.  

Here are a few ways to tackle mental health issues.

  • Talk with a mental health professional.
  • Keep a journal so you can write about difficult emotions.
  • Read books and listen to podcasts from licensed mental health experts.
  • Get help if you notice that you are developing a substance abuse problem or are having suicidal thoughts.
  • Discuss your feelings with a trusted partner, friend or family member.

2. Teach your children about emotional intelligence.

If your children know how to identify their feelings and control their behavior, they will be able to manage their emotions during tough times.  There are a variety of self-awareness techniques such as role play or creating artwork that can help children express their emotions.

Explore the following resources to learn more about behavioral health and wellness for children.

Find ways that work best for you and your children. Teaching children about managing emotions can be extremely helpful for all stages of life, including school, friendships and relationships.

3. Practice and encourage emotional regulation.

Help your children recognize their feelings and accept them so they can choose how to deal with them.  Encourage them to discuss situations that trigger emotions such as anger, sadness and frustration.  When children are equipped with the tools to recognize their feelings, they can then choose appropriate ways to react.

Here are a few good coping strategies to share with your children.

  • Practice breathing exercises during stressful times.
  • Learn how to meditate.
  • Engage in regular physical activities.
  • Put on a silly song or watch a video that encourages laughter.

4. Keep the lines of communication open.

If you notice your child is struggling or experiencing emotional challenges, speak up.  Ask them how they are doing and what’s going on in their lives.  If they aren’t comfortable talking about it, seek professional guidance. If it’s too hard to talk about, figure out another way for them to share that isn’t so overwhelming.
Never ignore signs of emotional distress in your children. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. It will only make matters worse over time. Prolonged mental distress can lead to suicide, substance abuse and other forms of self-harm.

5. Practice active listening skills without judgment.

Try to listen to your children’s problems without jumping to conclusions or getting upset. During conversations, be patient and wait for them to finish talking. If you don’t understand what they are saying, ask relevant questions to clarify the situation or the feelings that they are experiencing.  When children feel like they have been understood, they will be more willing to share.

Mental health issues don’t discriminate. It is essential to know that mental health challenges don’t make your children weak or flawed.  Apply these tips to help your children manage their feelings, cope with challenges and get the support they need.

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