“Mom, something traumatic happened,” my daughter told me as soon as she arrived home.
It turned out that a schoolmate recently attempted suicide which scared her and most of her peers. While teachers were equipped to conduct some form of mental health first aid on the shocked children, it is a disturbing fact that the world has yet to fund a solution to a global epidemic that is killing the youth.
The World Health Organization reported that suicide was the second leading cause of deaths among 15 to 29 year-olds in 2016. Every year, nearly 800,000 people die due to suicide, and for every incident, there are more attempts that are mostly unreported.
In the Philippines where seven or 11 suicides happen per day, 30 percent of the suicides from 2010 to 2016 were committed by young adults between the ages of 20 to 35 while 16 percent were adolescents from 10 to 19 years old.
Mental health experts identify unmanaged stress as the common trigger for suicide and depression, among other mental health disorders.
“The Opposite of Depression is Resiliency”
Generation Z, or the so-called iGeneration or digital natives, born from 1995 onwards, are born in a world where almost everything can be had at their fingertips. Popularity is often measured by the number of friends and followers in social media, and self-esteem is commonly associated with the number of likes and reactions. This generation of multi-taskers is burdened with maintaining real-life personas and their online images. All of these are stressors that their Gen X parents have not encountered in their teens.
“… resilience as the optimism to continue when tough times and failures are experienced”
At a recent parenting seminar in my daughter’s school, Dr. Ed Caligner, Ateneo de Manila University’s senior guidance counselor, underscored the value of raising today’s children with resilience and grit.
He defined resilience as the optimism to continue when tough times and failures are experienced while grit is the drive that keeps one on a difficult task over a sustained period of time. Resilience is formed with courage; humor; self-knowledge; relationship, goal-setting, and optimistic thinking skills; and the ability to manage feelings.
Dr. Caligner further gave the following tips to develop resiliency among children:
Build a strong emotional connection.
Create positive connection, and model coping and problem-solving skills.
Resist the urge to fix problems, instead ask questions.
Accept mistakes. Discourage failure avoiders.
Limiting screen time and gadget use have immense effects on the mental health of people of all ages. For one, doing this prevents another common stressor called information overload. However, teenagers also need to tune into their smartphones in order to satisfy their need for current information, as well as to socialize and connect with their peers. One way of reversing the instant lifestyles brought about by the digital age is to stick to traditional values such as delaying gratification so that children will develop grit as opposed to impatience and self-entitlement.
The Power of Mindful Conversations
All along, I thought that children require less attention once they get into their teens and prefer to spend more time with their friends in junior and senior high school. It did not take long for me to realize that I was wrong. Teenagers need their parents’ full physical and mental presence more than ever.
It was such a relief to have been the first person that my daughter saw after a traumatic day. Dr. Caligner advised that when parents connect with teenagers, it is best to sit down where eye contact can be made. My daughter who usually has a hard time opening up willingly shared her sentiments about the incident that frightened her, as well as shared some of her personal struggles and feelings of concern towards some troubled peers.
I tried to process her experience with the best of my ability, but knowing where my education falls short, I recommend getting advice from professionals such as child psychologists, counselors, and in severe cases, child psychiatrists in instances when children seem to be unable to cope from a traumatic experience. Most of the time though, I seek help from family members whi can be more objective and less emotionally involved.
Schools as Partners
Teens spend more than a third of their day or nearly half of their waking hours at school. Hence, parents must treat their educators as partners in raising their children.
For parents whose children are having a tough time in school, guidance counselors and class advisers are your best allies. Holding a conference with them, together with the concerned subject teachers or other parties, if any, may help you draw up a plan to improve your teenager’s situation. In extreme cases, there might be a need to tap the services of a professional child psychologist who can coach you and your school partners on the steps that you must take. (Scroll down for a list of child centers)
Help is Here
Financial limitations should not hinder you. Help is here. According to Senator Risa Hontiveros, the main proponent of Republic Act 11036 or the Mental Health Act, the law provides school guidance counselors to undergo training in mental health. Various forms of assistance will be made available and accessible to every adult, child, and teen.
Helping our teenagers overcome today’s stressors require that we conquer our own. Sometimes, this requires us to be vulnerable, too. We have to be ready to examine our own selves and the ways that we behave as adults, not because we are opening ourselves to judgment, but because we want to raise healthy, responsible, and thriving adults.
As my own parents always remind me, all achievements in my career will mean nothing if I fail as a parent.
I ask for prayers from those with faith so that I may live up to my parents’ reminder.
List of Centers:
Click on the institutions to be redirected to their respective websites.
Ateneo de Manila University
4. InTouch Community Services - has expatriate counselors
For recommendations on mental health professionals and counselors, and other inquiries, please send an email to email@example.com.
For emergencies, contact these 24/7 emotional support lines: HOPELINE (Filipino/English) - (0917) 558-HOPE for Globe; (02) 804-HOPE (4673) for landline; and 2919 for Globe toll-free; TAWAG PAGLAUM (Bisaya) - (0939) 937-5433 and (0939) 936-5433 for Smart/Sun, and (0927) 654-1629 for Globe/TM; and CRISIS LINE - (0922) 893-8944 for Sun, (0917) 800-1123 for Globe, and (02) 893-7603 for landline.