AUSTIN (KXAN) — The American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health. A study found:

  • More than half of adults (53%) with children under 18 in their household say they are concerned about the mental state of their children.
  • Almost half (48%) say the pandemic has caused mental health problems for one or more of their children, including minor problems for 29% and major problems for 19%.
  • More than a quarter (26%) of parents say they have sought professional mental health help for their children because of the pandemic.

There is a new way to talk to middle school-aged children about their mental health.

“As you might imagine, there are lots of resources they can go to. They can get inaccurate information online or from their friends who are also trying navigate all the emotions they are having,” said Dr. Charmain Jackman, a Harvard-trained psychologist.

Jackman hopes the national campaign called will be a trusted source for parents.

“This is vetted by mental health professionals like myself who have worked with teens, worked with young people and empower parents and caregivers into how to start these conversations,” said Jackman, who is also the mom of a middle schooler and knows the difficulty of getting children that age to open up.

“It really provides conversation starters. ‘How do we talk to young people about their emotions?’” said Jackman.

For Mental Health Awareness Month, the campaign has released a free downloadable “Conversation Starter Pack which includes prompts and activities that adults and kids can use together to help guide the conversation and approach sensitive subjects.

“One of the things you hear as a mental health professional is ‘if I talk about suicide, then I’m going to plant something in their head,’ and that’s absolutely not the case,” said Jackman.

“Research has shown that is not true. It actually empowers them. It gives them a space to talk about big feelings that they are having that they may not know it’s ok to talk to you about as their parent or caregiver.”