October is World Mental Health Awareness Month
The World Health Organization officially recognizes World Mental Health in October. The organization states that the pandemic has greatly impacted people’s mental health. They report people living with pre- existing mental health conditions and those living alone are particularly affected. These populations include the families we serve at Friends of Karen. When a child is diagnosed with a life threatening illness it is safe to assume that the child and their family members will experience higher levels of stress and depression. Friends of Karen has been supporting families in various ways to maintain and improve each family member’s mental health.
Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental health affects how we live day to day, including how we feel, think, behave and relate to others. Some key aspects to maintaining mental health during difficult times are talking about feelings, taking time to relax, asking for help and connecting with others. At Friends of Karen we do this all in the following ways….
Social Workers and Sibling Support Specialists, the Family Support Team, meet with parents and/or ill children and their siblings individually to discuss typical feelings experienced during this difficult time. The support team gives a space for family members to express themselves. In addition professionals validate feelings of sadness, anger, jealousy, fear and joy. By educating families that these feelings are all normal helps individuals navigate through their journey without shame.
The support team also encourages the parents and children to ask for help, recognizing it is a strength to do so and not a weakness. At Friends of Karen we want the families to be able to prioritize their time and energy on their mental health as well as their families’. This means Friends of Karen is there in various ways including as a link between family and children’s school, offering fun memorable life experiences and providing additional resources.
The greatest way the family support team improves our families’ mental health is by connecting them to others and each other. Sibling Support Specialists provide family activities that connect family members that may be separated because of hospitalization or are preparing for end of life. Friends of Karen also facilitates several groups that allow participants to connect by sharing their sadness and their joy. The groups provide a space and support for bereaved parents and socialization groups for children and teens.
Through individual sessions, minimizing everyday stresses on families and by providing various groups, we at Friends of Karen are helping our families maintain and improve their mental health through this difficult time.