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Talking to your kids about mental health

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MARATHON COUNTY, Wis. (WAOW) -- For some parents, talking to your kids about their mental health may be daunting. But experts say mental health conversations are necessary.

"Kids often don't just come out and tell you they are struggling," said Peaceful Solutions Executive Director Lee Shipway. "I always tell parents it's nice if you could do a check-in with them like every week, or every couple of weeks."

According to the latest youth risk behavior survey, many kids in Marathon County struggle with their mental health.

"About half of all of the students in Marathon County reported depression, anxiety or self harm," said Public Health Educator Hannah Schommer.

And when it comes to suicide, the data is striking.

"If you think about an average Marathon County classroom size of 20 students, of those 20 students the data is telling us that one or two of those students in that classroom have attempted to kill themselves," Schommer said.

So how do you even start the conversation with your kids? Shipway recommends asking a few simple questions: "How's it going with your friends? How are you feeling? Is there anything bothering you that you want to talk about?"

If you're concerned your child is having suicidal thoughts, Shipway said it's best not to beat around the bush.

"Come right out and say it: 'Are you feeling so sad you wish you were dead?'"

Even though those questions may be tough, Shipway said it can help open up a positive line of communication.

For additional resources about mental health and suicide prevention you can call 211 or go to the United Way website.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is: 1-800-273-8255

Sarah McGrew

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