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May 2022

Supporting Mental Health for the Whole Family

From the Editor

Photo of Maria Schaertel

Do you pay attention to your mental health? As a parent, do you know how to recognize mental health issues in your child? Through my own experience, I have found that there is hope and help available by reaching out to mental health professionals, family, and friends for information and support. Read on for tips on how to recognize and take care of mental health challenges.

In this issue, we feature a parent activist who addresses mental health through the lens of equity, as she strives to serve the whole community.

Best to you and yours,
Maria Schaertel

Sara Taylor, Local Parent Expert, Comments on Mental Health

Sara Taylor

Many parents struggle with hurt, guilt, and shame and are often blamed for their child’s condition. I would encourage any parent to honestly search their heart and recognize that they have a child that is “sick” and who needs some extra care and services. There are many support groups available through trusted community partners that will offer peer support for parents and caregivers. Speak up for your child in school, community and within the health and mental health system. Our children are not bad or criminals. They are sick and deserve the care and empathy that sick children should receive. We must collectively work to combat the stigma.

Mental health may look and feel different for every child, and every family experience is unique. Partner with your pediatrician and therapist and become the lead decision maker in your child’s care. Love them and listen to their needs even if their behaviors may be difficult to understand and live with at times.

We are hoping that parents will join us in our efforts to transform the mental health system from the lens of a parent and caregiver. We are hosting planning sessions monthly throughout the region. These are safe spaces and places where we address the success, challenges, and opportunities for navigating the mental health systems.

Sara Taylor is the Founder of Partners in Community of Black Indigenous People of Color, Parents Elevating their voice to Educate and Empower Each other to Eliminate disparities and inequities in services related to the Emotional health of our Kids, Parent Mental Health Project (Partners in Community BIPOC PEEEEEK). For further information, please see http://www.bipocparentvoice.org/

Meet Dr. April Aycock

April Aycock is the Director of the Monroe County Office of Mental Health. Aycock joined the county in 2021 after Daniel Prude’s arrest, which “many people saw was a system that utterly failed a person in the throes of a mental health crisis.” County Executive Adam Bello said Aycock “brings a unique lens of equity and a deep understanding of how … key issues intersect when it comes to delivering mental health services.”

To learn more about April Aycock, please see For April Aycock, mental health is about connections


Signs your child may need outside help

  • Displays excessive worry or anxiety
  • Appears less confident or feels bad about themselves
  • Withdraws from you, their friends, or activities they used to enjoy
  • Displays significant changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Struggles academically or has issues with friends
  • Expresses hopelessness, seems depressed, or talks about suicide
  • Engages in negative behaviors more often
  • Talks about or participates in self-harming behaviors
  • Seems overly irritable, emotional, or easily upset

Adapted from How to Support Your Child’s Mental Health

There is help

Begin by taking notice of your children’s moods, behaviors and emotions. Early intervention is critical because mental health conditions often get worse without treatment.

If you notice symptoms, schedule an appointment with a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, pediatrician, or primary care physician. Try to provide your healthcare professional with as much detailed information as you can.

Learn all that you can. NAMI Basics is an educational class that teaches parents and other family caregivers how to cope with their child’s condition and manage their recovery. You can also find information about specific mental health conditions and treatment options on the NAMI website.

Work with Your Child. It’s helpful to remain respectful and understanding of your child’s feelings. Try to avoid getting angry at them for behaviors that are not under their control. This does not mean you can’t set limits or impose discipline. What it does mean is that you set your expectations in consideration of your child’s mental health. This is often referred to as part of “finding a new normal.”

Adapted from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Learning to Help Your Child and Your Family

self careTaking Care of Yourself

  • Reach out to others for help such as psychologists, social workers, or psychiatrists. Or reach out to your faith-based organization for help.
  • Check out apps such as Calm which includes sleep stories, guided meditation, and soothing sounds.
  • Does your employer provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? An EAP is a work-based intervention designed to assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be affecting their performance. Check in with your human resources department to learn about EAP.

Supporting Children with Disabilities Who Have Anxiety

Anxiety is just one aspect of mental health that we, along with our children, often confront.

Understand What Anxiety Looks Like. Among other symptoms, your child may have meltdowns, emotional outbursts, or self-stimulating behavior. Some symptoms of anxiety can often be mistaken as a lack of discipline or non-compliance. It’s important to encourage open conversation with your child about mental health. We need to teach them how to identify when they get anxious so that they can seek help if needed. Drawing attention to their sweaty palms, accelerated heartbeat, icky feeling in their stomach, or how their hands flap can help them in recognizing how anxiety affects their body.

Help Your Child Develop Healthy Exercise and Diet Habits.  Being active and eating healthy keeps us in good physical and mental health. Use your child’s interests to encourage regular exercise. For example, children who love dancing, swimming, or biking can benefit from those activities while others can choose a sport they like or play games such as cricket, soccer, or basketball to stay fit.

Coping Toolbox. Try providing a toolbox with several calming strategies that work for them. You can use social stories for emotional self-regulation or sensory toys that can calm them down. Reminders to take a walk, take deep breaths, or listen to music can help them cope with their anxieties.

Adapted from 5 Tips for Managing Anxiety of Children with Special Needs

mental health matters 

Disclosure – Should You Share Your Child’s Mental Health Issue with School?

You and your child have the final word on whether or not to tell school about your child’s mental health. Does it benefit your child for school to know? The following professionals make a strong case for sharing your child’s mental health concerns with school officials.

“Talk with your child’s school. Check to be sure that your child is receiving appropriate care and services at school. Children with mental health conditions may struggle in school without assistance, leading to frustration and stress. Fortunately, the law requires that schools provide special services and accommodations to children with mental health conditions that interfere with their education. Learn more about how to acquire necessary educational services.” Jessica Schrader, Flinn Foundation. Disclosing a Mental Illness: Who Should You Tell?

“Treating children in schools can powerfully overcome issues of cost, transportation, and stigma that typically restrict broad utilization of mental health services.” Amanda L. Sanchez, MS, Center for Children and Families, Florida International University. From Teachers, other school staff can ease children’s mental health issues

Additional Resources

Families Together in New York State

Compeer Rochester



Publication Information

This newsletter is published by
1650 South Avenue, Suite 200
Rochester, NY 14620
(585) 546-1700

Funding is partially provided by a Family Support Services Grant by the OPWDD (Office for People With Developmental Disabilities) and by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Publication within this journal of articles and information should not be considered an endorsement by Starbridge and/or the funders.

EDITOR: Maria Schaertel