Combating mental health issues starts at home | Opinion

By Micah Dawanyi

Special to the Sun Sentinel

Mar 03, 2022 12:50 PM

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Micah Dawanyi

Micah Dawanyi (Micah Dawanyi / Courtesy)

All parents want the best for their children (or so I should hope). All parents want to ensure that their children live healthy, happy and long lives. And in pursuit of this, many parents think about things like making sure their kids are raised in a safe environment with opportunities to grow up and succeed. I hear a lot of parents talk about making sure that their child goes to the best public or private schools so they can get into the best college, so they can (in the long run) become a doctor, or a lawyer or a businessperson. Many of them say that securing a financially stable and successful future is the greatest thing you can do for your child. But I believe there’s something more important for parents to consider, something that often goes under the radar: equipping children with the psychological skillset to be able to handle their mental health.

Let’s start with the facts. Mental health conditions are continuously changing and are becoming a growing concern in society. According to the World Health Organization, there has been a 13% rise in mental health conditions in the past decade, and today, about 20% of the world’s children and adolescents live with some sort of mental condition. That’s one out of every five kids.

For me as a health science/psychology student in college, I find these statistics to be alarming. Especially because through my studies, I’ve found that parents play an important role in determining these statistics.

Hardships and tragic life circumstances that lead to mental health conditions can be inevitable, not to mention the fact that many people inherit these conditions through genetics. But still, parents must own up to their role in this issue. I’ve found that many parents do not prioritize mental health in their homes, and if they do, it is not until something has already happened (for example, a child in the home starts to struggle severely with anxiety or depression). Almost all of my friends and peers say that they grew up without the privilege of confiding in their parents when dealing with tough times. Instead, they were forced to bottle everything up or find alternative coping mechanisms to deal with the emotional distress in their lives, and this led to poor emotional intelligence skills later down the line.

This is not how things have to be.

I wholeheartedly believe that it is possible to raise a generation of emotionally whole, mentally healthy children. I think it’s possible to combat these rising mental health statistics, and it starts in the home.

I’m not saying that navigating the world of psychology as a parent is easy, but one thing’s for sure: parents need to encourage emotional expression in their homes. It’s important to give children safe spaces to express their fears, concerns and worries. This can be done simply by sitting with them, asking them how they’re really doing, and listening — not with the intent to immediately judge, scold or talk down to them, but with the intent to make them feel seen, heard and supported. Parents can also recommend journaling, meditation, and even professional counseling for their children.

Ultimately, every parent will have to assess their own family situation to determine how to best promote emotional expression and how to prioritize mental health in the home. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting technique, but there are strategies, methods and resources out there that must be considered. And with consistency, patience, love and understanding, parents can truly create those safe spaces. They can equip their children with the psychological skillset to be able to handle their mental health.

Micah Dawanyi is a psychology student at Nova Southeastern University, an author and a nationally licensed sports coach. He recently published his second book, “Battle Scars & Blossoms: A Journey Through the Mind.” Email

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