Last week, we shared information about risk factors and early warning signs of mental health disorders to be aware of as our adolescent youth return to school. This week, we consider things you can do to provide support and guidance for a youth with a mental health condition as they begin a new school year. Parents should know that they are not alone in advocating for their loved ones, as one in five youth under age 18 experience a diagnosable mental health problem each year. There are a number of things you can do to help youth experience the best possible school environment.
If the child is on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), make sure it is up to date and meet with the child’s teachers, counselor, administrators, and other key staff to ensure they are aware of his or her IEP, special needs, and modifications and accommodations that have been worked out with the school. Also talk with the child to plan a strategy for handling days when he or she is feeling bad or when a situation escalates, and share this information with teachers, nurses, and appropriate school staff. If the child needs to take medication during the school day, make sure you and the child understand and follow school policy and procedures for administering medications. For more information, download Mental Health America‘s helpful 8-Point Back-to-School Checklist that was created to help families and advocates prepare youth with mental health conditions for the new school year.