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‘Kids are struggling’: NAMI of Washington County offers free mental health event for parents this weekend

The free workshop is Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Sherwood School District Office.

SHERWOOD, Ore. — It is time to talk about mental health with your kids and teens. On Saturday, February 25, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Washington County is offering a free mental health workshop for parents to foster that conversation.

“Just to know that you are absolutely not alone and it is okay to talk about. In fact, talking about it actually helps, especially with your kid,” Director of Community Outreach Cassidy Quinn said. “It can be really hard to figure out how to start those conversations, but that’s what you have to do. We can’t deal with it until we actually open it up, start picking apart, figuring out what’s actually going on, and talk about it.”

Saturday’s workshop will include mental health professionals to help guide families, but also young adults and parents, such as Tara Rolstad and Leanne Sype.

“I really approach my kids the same way I would if they have a stomachache or the flu,” Sype said. “It’s really, it’s another day of not feeling well. And so, what do we do when we don’t feel well? As a parent, I’m going to approach my child with compassion and some sort of plan.”

Sype is the mom of two teens. She says normalizing mental health and the struggles that come with it is key in her approach.

RELATED: CDC report: Suicide rates among Black children and young adults increasing at alarming rate

She also lives with anxiety and feels it’s important to not only be open about that with her teens but also make her mental health a priority as well.

“I have to know how to take care of myself and recognize when my own mental health condition is starting to take the wheel and know when I need to pull back – take care of myself first,” Sype said. “And really do that on a daily basis so that I’m always ready and I’m always a safe place for my kids to come.”

Awareness and acknowledgment of mental illness is the first step in talking about it.

“That means starting as soon as possible. Starting early and the first thing you have to do as a parent, anyways, is get over being awkward. Your kids are going to think your awkward anyhow,” Rolsatad said.

Rolstad is the founder of Shattering Stigma with Stories. She’s focused on helping families talk about and deal with mental health issues.

A foster and biological mom to children with mental illness, she shares her experiences to help other families connect and know they’re not alone.

“Pointing them, most importantly to each other in community so that they can support each other. So, they can have conversations that are real to get into what is actually happening with their kids -- is what will help them hold together as a family, hold together as a community when their kids are struggling. And a lot of our kids are struggling right now,” she said.

RELATED: Beaverton School District devotes week to mental health and suicide prevention

One in six kids in the U.S. aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems and depression are the most common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Youth suicide has rightfully become a headline-grabbing conversation in the U.S. It’s the second-leading cause of death for kids between 10 and 14 years old, according to the CDC.

“Start talking to them about their brains. Start talking to them about what it feels like to have symptoms of a mental health disorder. What is it like to have anxiety? What does it feel like to have depression,” Rolstad said.

Saturday’s workshop isn’t just for parents. It’s really for anyone who interacts with youth. Being aware of and supporting kids’ mental health is something anyone in the community can be a part of.

“We have to realize as adults in kids’ lives, whether we’re parents or coaches or Sunday School teachers – we have to realize we don’t have the luxury to avoid those conversations any longer,” Rolstad said. “Our kids are hurting a lot of them are dealing with depression, anxiety, or even suicidal thoughts. We need to understand it’s our job as the grownups to develop the skills to have those conversations.”

CLICK HERE to register for Saturday’s free parenting and mental health event. Visit www.washconami.org for more info. 

It starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, February 25 at the Sherwood school district office.

NAMI of Washington County also has parental support groups and a bunch of resources for families.

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