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Conversation Starters and Ways to Support Children and Youth Struggling with Mental Health

May 23, 2023

At Dee Norton, we know that positive mental health is essential for a child’s development. Currently, the pediatric mental health crisis is the top patient safety concern of 2023 according to new reports.


Mental Health concerns among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day. Mental health includes children’s mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being. It affects how children think, feel, and act. It also plays a role in how children handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. A recent study in JAMA Pediatrics showed rates of anxiety and depression in children ages 3 to 17 increased by 29% and 27%, from 2016 to 2020. While a 2021 CDC survey of high school students (in the U.S.) found 30% of girls said they’d seriously considered attempting suicide—double the rate among boys and up almost 60% from a decade ago.


“In 2022, Dee Norton provided 138 Mental Health Assessments and facilitated 570 therapy sessions for children using evidence-based treatments,” says Beverly Hutchison, Executive Director at Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center. “The children we see are those able to have care coordinated by our community, but there are even more that we don’t see. We want our community to be equipped with the tools to create an environment where children feel safe to talk. Create and maintain a safe and positive environment with them through communication. Having age-appropriate conversations about mental health with a child in your life and really listening to them —can save their life.”


Knowing how to start the conversation can be challenging, so the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center has compiled conversation starters and guidelines for support.


Conversation Starters:

  • What was the best and hardest part of your day?
  • If you could start today again, what would you do differently?
  • How can I support you through today?
  • Is there anything you need from me—space, time to talk, or doing something fun?
  • If you want to talk to me about what is worrying you, I will do my best to help.
  • I am here for you if you want to talk. If you need to talk to someone else, that’s okay too.

How to Support Your Child if They Are Struggling:

  • Validate their feelings.
  • Thank them for sharing what is going on and for opening up to you.
  • Let them know that you’re there to support them and can get them help if they need it.
  • Spend time together thinking about what is making them feel this way and next steps.
  • Know that resources are available.
    • If there is a concern of abuse, call Dee Norton at (843) 723-3600.
  • Contact 911 immediately if the situation is a life-threatening emergency.


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