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#FINDINGHOPE: Early intervention maintains mental health in school children

Posted: 6:56 PM, Aug 28, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-29 12:37:46-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports that suicide is the second-leading cause of death in Idahoans age 15 to 34. To avoid suicidal ideation as they get older, counselors at Children's Home Society in Boise told us how important it is for parents to notice certain warning signs in their kids while they're young.

"A new school, maybe a new teacher, maybe some new friends... transitions can just be hard in general for adults, if you can imagine, right?" said Karin Watson, Director of Counseling Services, Children's Home Society.

While some students start the new school year with confidence and success, for others, new changes can mean new anxieties.

"Maybe last year wasn't so successful, maybe there are some issues within the family that are making it kind of hard to adjust. Or just, ya know, genetically, there might be some predisposition for anxiety for that child," said Watson.

Bullying doesn't help either, according to Watson.

Watson said these are some red flags to look out for:

  • Extreme separation anxiety
  • Repeatedly refusing to go to school
  • Throwing tantrums whenever school is mentioned
  • Recurring meltdowns when you try to bring them to school
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits

She says if these warning signs go unnoticed, the results could be dire for both their long-term and short-term success.

"Their brain is essentially shutting down... they're working on self-protection, they're working on getting their basic needs met, and they're just not going to be open to learning or even to relationships."

But Watson also said warning signs are not always when the child is "acting out" behaviorally.

"If they're not playing with kids on the playground, if they're not talking in class when the teacher asks for a response, that kind of thing," she said, can be a red flag.

She said getting into a counselor will help that child learn how to either verbalize or cope with how they're feeling.

"And hopefully work with the family so that the family can support that child," said Watson.

Watson said for kids under 9 years old, staff at Children's Home Society will often use play or art therapy, which she said is incredibly effective.

And due to Medicaid expansion, services like these may become more accessible to more people, beginning next year.

"We're kind of in this interesting situation where you either have Medicaid, or you have a deductible that you can't pay, and so I think that the Medicaid expansion is going to remedy a lot of that," said Watson.

Click here to learn more on how you and your family can benefit from services provided by Children's Home Society's two Treasure Valley locations.