Back to School Tips for Mental Health

Back to School Tips for Mental Health

It’s time to go back to school and the reactions of kids (and parents) can differ wildly. Some children are excited to see their friends again more regularly and get back into a routine. Others will miss the freedom of summer and aren’t ready to return to the classroom. Still others may have a mental health condition like anxiety or depression or a learning disorder that makes school harder for them. At the Healthy365 Connection Center, it is our goal to support families in their overall wellness, so we’ve got some general tips for back to school time that will hopefully make the transition a little easier. 

Get a good night’s sleep

People of all ages need a solid sleep routine to function at full capacity during the day, but no population more so than children. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, students aged 6-12 should get at least 9-12 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers 13-18 should get 8-10 hours of sleep each night in order to promote optimal health. 

The authors of this consensus report also noted that getting the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis is associated with “better health outcomes including improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.” Lack of sleep can also increase the chance of learning and behavior problems, injuries, depression, and in teenagers, the risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts and attempts. 

In addition, research shows that screen time before bed can have negative impacts on both children and adults, and can be associated with the “worsening of many mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.” Reminding your child to turn off their devices at least 15-30 minutes prior to bedtime, and even charging them in a common space like the kitchen or living room, can improve sleep hygiene.

Find an after-school routine

Helping your child find a good routine for homework, reading and other activities is a good lesson in time management and self-care. For example, you can show them how the practice of laying out their clothes and packing their lunch the night before sets the tone for a more relaxed morning instead of scrambling to get out the door. A daily routine can provide more stability for children who have a lot of anxiety, and adding in a checklist of regular tasks or chores can offer an incentive to get things done efficiently.

Keep organized

Staying organized as a family can sometimes seem like a challenge, but going back to school can create a natural rhythm and sense of organization that is difficult to find during the summer. You can help kids always know where their things are by setting up a mudroom, closet or space by the front/garage door as a drop zone for their backpacks, lunch boxes and school supplies. 

Staying organized can also offer kids with anxiety a better sense of control when life feels overwhelming. Look for natural times to help them declutter their backpack or supply drop zone, like the end of each week, to help them feel on top of things again. Clutter in the space where kids do their homework can also contribute to distractions. Help them reorganize their room, desk or the dining room in order to find a better sense of focus. 

Be kind and don’t be afraid to ask for help

Another important part of going back to school is teaching your child to be kind, both by talking about ways to be a good friend and by setting a good example for them. Kids with mental health conditions or learning disorders may sometimes have a hard time making friends, so regardless of whether your child falls into this category, teaching them to be kind can make a big difference. 

If you think your child may be experiencing an unusual amount of stress or anxiety, you can look for these common signs and help them get support. In preschool-aged students, you may notice a regression to bed-wetting, baby talk or the development of new fears. In elementary students, you could see clinginess to parents or teachers, worries about their safety or that of family/friends, or difficulty concentrating. For high school students, you might notice signs of depression or agitation, taking unnecessary risks, trouble sleeping or changes in their usual behavior.

Do you need additional mental health support for yourself or your family? Contact the Healthy365 Connection Center today at 317-468-4231 to learn more about the local resources to which we can connect you.

How Companies Can Support Employee Mental Health

How Companies Can Support Employee Mental Health

According to the CDC, mental health conditions are among the most common wellness concerns in the U.S. In any given year, 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness, and more than 50% of individuals in the U.S. will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives. With the prevalence of these concerns, it is more important than ever that companies support employee mental health with better work/life balance, quality wellness programs, mental health benefits and more. 

Offering mental health education

The first step to supporting employee mental health is acknowledging that mental health concerns exist in the workplace. Companies need to educate themselves about the prevalence and impact of mental health issues and, in turn, educate their workers about how they can expect to be treated with regards to mental wellness at work. Offices/employers that currently offer regular professional development are already well on their way to the process of including mental health education in this type of training, but it’s never too late to improve the ongoing education initiatives at your company. 

Improving work/life balance

The next big step to supporting employee mental health in a business is improving overall work/life balance. In some cases, this may look like increasing remote work opportunities, or offering a more flexible/hybrid schedule. For some companies, it may work to offer unlimited PTO with the expectation that mental health days will be included in that time off. But in some offices with unlimited PTO, people are worried about taking any days off for fear of being seen as “taking too much advantage” of the policy. In this situation, incentivizing mental health days could be beneficial (for example, unlocking more PTO or other benefits when workers use their mandatory mental health days). 

Providing mental health programs/benefits

Speaking of benefits, these days it is essential that workplaces offer benefits and programming to support employee mental health. Make sure that your insurance coverage includes regular mental health counseling and other services, and that your staff members understand when and how to use this coverage. Some HR offices have even begun partnering with resources that can help employees schedule mental health services to reduce barriers to quality care and providers. A number of companies are also buying into employer programming for counseling, meditation and mental wellness apps like BetterHelp or Headspace to address mental health early and regularly — before someone’s situation becomes severe.

Advocating for mental health access

Of course, caring for your employees’ mental health is more than just providing programs. It’s also about advocating for them and setting a good example from the top down. Individuals in leadership can reduce the stigma about mental illness by talking openly about it and whether they have direct experience. They should also encourage their direct reports to take regular time off for mental health breaks, and should be taking regular (but not excessive) time off themselves. 

Leadership and HR staff can advocate for employees to take advantage of any of the programs or benefits mentioned above, including for their children or other dependents where coverage is available. And supporting the cause of mental health at large, through service projects, company donations or community education, is another great way for businesses to show their employees that they care. If you are an employer looking to better support mental health at your company, reach out to the Healthy365 Connection Center today! Our staff would be happy to provide your workforce with training, resources and more to improve mental health and overall wellness.

Super Staff Series: Connor McCarty

Super Staff Series: Connor McCarty

The Healthy365 Connection Center has a new team member! We are proud to welcome Connor McCarty, who will be serving our team as a Support Navigator with a special focus on clients and families within the justice system. His past social work and child welfare experience makes him the perfect fit for this role and we can’t wait to see our connections with the justice system continue to grow!

A background in child welfare

Connor is a familiar face at the Connection Center because of his past working relationships with his fellow Support Navigators. “I first got involved with Healthy365 through Christina Dewitt, she and I have worked together for about 7 years through social work,” said Connor. “She mentioned what she was doing here and that they were launching their justice program.”

Connor got his professional start in child welfare and has been serving Central Indiana for nearly a decade. “I have been in social work for about 10 years now. I have been working in child welfare for over six years,” he said. “When I was doing my undergrad I did various placements typically related to child welfare, and the majority of my professional work has been at the Department of Child Services.”

Transitioning into the justice system

When you think about working with clients in the justice system, you may just think about those who are incarcerated or on probation. However, families and children who have loved ones in the justice system are also largely affected. “I have worked very closely with the justice program because a lot of our clients overlap,” explained Connor. “I have worked directly with clients that have been in jail or prison, and that have transitioned out and worked with probation. I’ve learned to work collaboratively with them.”

A lot to love about Healthy365

Connor started working at the Healthy365 Connection Center just about a month ago on June 20, but it didn’t take much time for him to fall in love with the environment. “It is an amazing environment to work in and very supportive. Healthy365 is really client-driven and I love that,” said Connor.

He also appreciates how passionate Healthy365 is about our clients. “I love that the client is truly the main focus,” he said. “Everything we do relates to how this is going to benefit the client and, in turn, our community.” 

Unsurprisingly, one of his favorite programs at the Connection Center is one that can benefit children and families: “We can help link families to get coverage for health insurance. It’s an awesome resource because it’s not just Medicaid or the marketplace, it’s all of them. We can help families identify what works best for them and get them applied.”

A heart for Hancock County

Connor has a special place in his heart for local residents because he is one as well. “I’ve lived in Hancock County for about six and half years,” he said. “I lived in New Pal for most of that and then I recently relocated to Greenfield.” He also appreciates both the professional and personal benefits to be found here locally. “It’s a great community as far as collaboration,” he said. “It’s so easy to build those connections and relationships with people. I’ve worked in other counties and that is not always the case.”

Like many Hancock County locals, Connor loves the “small town” feel that can be found alongside a number of “big city” amenities. “I know a lot of people love that ‘small town feeling,’ but there are a lot of things to do and I love that it’s growing,” he said. “I love being able to be part of that growth, not just in this role but as a community member and being able to benefit from it.”

Rapid-fire questions:

If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have?  

“Telekinesis… I would probably never get up.”

What is your favorite Indiana season and why?  

“I love the springtime because I love the outdoors. I love getting our garden and our yard ready for summer, planting and getting things pruned and cleaned up from the winter – that’s the best time.”

What is your favorite way to kick off a Monday? 

“If I’m being honest, it would be to drive through and get a McDonald’s Coke, and then show up to work and I am ready to go.”

What’s your most recent favorite read, movie, or show? 

“We just started Season 2 of ‘The Umbrella Academy’ on Netflix. I’m trying not to binge because we want to extend it but it’s awesome. Elliot Page is in it as a trans character, and as supporting and being in the community I love to see it. Sometimes I think major networks try to exaggerate real life and so it’s really refreshing to see it done well, in my opinion.”

How Children Struggle When Parents Misuse Substances

How Children Struggle When Parents Misuse Substances

Much focus is placed on the individuals who suffer from substance misuse disorders, but less so is given to the family, friends and loved ones who are also affected. Children especially are heavily impacted when parents misuse substances like alcohol, opioids or other drugs. We’re exploring the various ways that substance misuse can create struggles for an entire family — and how to get both parents and children the help they need. 

What happens when parents misuse substances?

According to the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, roughly seven million Americans under the age of 18 live with at least one parent who misuses alcohol. Children of an alcoholic could be affected as early as in utero if their mother drinks while pregnant. Studies show that “children from alcoholic families experience more physical, emotional and mental health problems than other youngsters.” They have to cope with the stress of their parents exhibiting emotional problems or irrational behavior and may even experience abuse or neglect. 

What are ACEs?

Children who live in a home with someone who misuses substances are likely to accumulate several ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences. According to the CDC, ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur from the age of 0-17, which can include (but are not limited to) experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect or witnessing violence in the home or community. Children of parents who misuse substances may also experience the ACE of living in an “environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding.” 

ACEs are often preventable, but unfortunately, they can have a lasting impact on individuals who experience them. Someone who has grown up with toxic stress, like living with a parent suffering from addiction, may have a hard time forming healthy or stable relationships in the future. They can struggle with finances, have an unstable work history, and may repeat patterns or further exposure to toxic stress, “due to systemic racism or the impacts of poverty resulting from limited educational and economic opportunities.” Some racial/ethnic minority groups, as well as women, are at greater risk for experiencing multiple types of ACEs.

If you are interested in learning more about ACEs and whether you have experienced any of them, you can take an ACEs quiz at americanspcc.org/take-the-aces-quiz

Help for children when parents misuse substances

Most people have heard of AA or NA, also known as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, respectively. But did you know that there are also similar support group organizations for those who have loved ones with an addiction? Al-Anon is “a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.” Locally in Greenfield, these individuals can find support groups located at Bradley United Methodist, Amity United Methodist and The Way Out Club. Teens who are struggling with the effects of someone else’s drinking can attend an Alateen support group, with local options at Trinity Lutheran Church in Indianapolis or Ascension St. Vincent Anderson Center in Anderson.

The Support Navigators at the Healthy365 Connection Center can also provide a non-judgmental confidential listening ear for families and children affected by loved ones who misuse substances. We would be honored to connect you to local organizations and resources that can alleviate your suffering and improve your family’s overall wellness. Over the last few years, our Support Navigators have developed hundreds of meaningful relationships, partnered with numerous local organizations and offered support to many local families and individuals in their journey towards better mental health and freedom from substance misuse.

Contact us at 317-468-4231 or visit the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd. Suite G in Greenfield to work with a Support Navigator today!

Summer Mental Health Tips

Summer Mental Health Tips

June 21 is the first day of summer, and for many people that means trips to the pool, exciting outdoor activities and having fun. But for others, summer can be a difficult time for their mental health. We often hear about Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter, when the days are shorter and darker, but summer can bring about depression, anxiety and mental health issues as well. Let’s talk about how you can protect your summer mental health and how Healthy365 can connect you to available resources in Hancock County. 

How is mental health impacted during summer?

If you already suffer from anxiety or depression, it can feel extra hard to come out of your “winter hibernation” in the spring and summertime. While everyone else seems to be excited about the warmer weather and extra sunlight, someone with reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder or mental health issues may feel additional guilt or shame because they don’t feel that same excitement. 

Big weather changes that come in the spring and summer can also cause hormonal shifts or mood swings. Our circadian rhythm can get overwhelmed by changing seasons, and some people may need more time to adjust. Some typical symptoms of seasonal affective disorder or depression can include weight loss, changes in appetite, anxiety, irritability or insomnia.

Going outside

One of the silver linings about having feelings of depression in the summer versus the winter is that it’s much easier to get outside and soak in the Vitamin D. Even taking a short walk can boost your serotonin and improve your mood. If you notice your children are getting bored or having mood swings during summer break, keeping a loose schedule that includes time outside and playdates with others can be a great way to help them. 

Taking a relaxing vacation

Summer is obviously a great time for vacations. Your job (and schools) give you vacation time for a reason – so make sure to use it! Some people might find planning a trip stressful, so take advantage of online resources for vacation planning and find a place to get away. Try to use your vacation to unwind, clear your mind and refocus your energy so that you feel refreshed when you return home. 

Getting active

Exercising is another good way to treat feelings of depression or anxiety, and during the summer there are tons of options to get active. You could start training for a 5K or fun run, many of which take place in the summer or fall. You could take up a yoga practice to improve flexibility and try out some mindfulness meditation. You could even just take the kids to the park and try to keep up with them! However you feel comfortable, try getting active for at least 20-30 minutes a day and your body (and mind) will thank you for it. 

Maintaining proper sleep

On the flip side of getting active is getting a good night’s sleep. It can be easy to stay up late or sleep in during the more relaxed days of summer, but do your best to get in 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, with a relatively similar schedule for your bedtime and wake-up call each day. Sleep hygiene can have a big impact on mental health for people of all ages, so it’s important to set a good example for your family.  

Seeing a mental health professional

If your feelings of anxiety and depression persist or seem to be getting worse, it may be time to talk to your doctor or see a mental health professional. The Support Navigators at Healthy365 would be happy to provide you with a non-judgmental listening ear, and to connect you with local resources for your overall health and wellness.

Call us today at 317-468-4231 or visit the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd., Suite G in Greenfield to learn more about how you can improve your mental health this summer.