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UNSPOKEN: Children and Mental Health

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — As News 13 continues a Panhandle Strong series on mental health, we take a look at how the storm could’ve impacted children.

Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital is the only facility in our area that offers inpatient mental health treatment for kids.

“We’ve had a lot of children and adolescents coming in with suicidal ideation,” Dr. Royce Gray, Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital Staff Psychiatrist, said. “Many children in the current environment are facing a lot more stress and it’s caused an increase in symptoms.”

Parents may not know if their child is going through a phase or really dealing with something. Dr. Gray says one major sign for parents to look out for in their child is changing in mood or sleep pattern.

“Signs and symptoms of depression include decreased interest in things that were once pleasurable, feelings of unreasonable guilt or negative thoughts about yourself that are not realistic, changes in concentration, changes in energy levels,” he said.

Even though the stresses are different, Gray says parents should recognize their child is also going through a tough time.

“For example, things are different for me at school because my friends aren’t there who used to be there because they had to move or authority figures in the school, as a teacher, maybe stressed and the kids realize that,” Dr. Gray said.

Gray says getting a child to open up about their feelings may be as easy as parents doing the same.

“Open communication can occur in both ways. For example, I assume some parents think it’s better not to talk about how they feel about the stressors that are going on around them and in some instances that’s actually not true. Sitting down with your children and saying, ‘I know this is a difficult time for all of us’ can be a healthy thing and can be a welcoming thing for a child who is looking for an invitation to discuss it,” Dr. Gray said.

If you think your child needs help but aren’t sure which way to go, assessments at Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital are free.

Emerald Coast offers services for Bay, Walton, Okaloosa, and Jackson counties.

If you need to reach someone immediately, call 850-763-0017. Licensed mental health professionals are available 24/7.

The number for the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

To learn more about Emerald Coast, click here.

For a list of all mental health resources in the area, click here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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