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Summer Mental Health
It’s hard to believe that June is here and school is out for the summer! Along with three months of freedom from school, summer can be a time when certain mental health issues are prevalent. The unstructured schedule of summer can lead to more ADHD symptoms, anxiety, depression, and even seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Children who have ADHD may reduce or discontinue medications during the summer months based on their doctor’s advice. This can sometimes cause worsened attention symptoms and mood changes. To help prepare for that, it is good for parents and children to talk about their goals or expectations for the summer break. Establishing a plan ahead of time to deal with changes in behavior or mood can help for a smoother transition into summer.
Anxiety and depression can become more apparent during this time because of the lack of structure in a child’s day. In order to help lessen anxiety and depression, provide a consistent schedule during the summer. For younger children, setting play dates or sending them to daycare programs keeps their minds occupied. Participating in sports, camps, or plays also helps. For teens, having a part-time job helps them learn the importance of a work ethic while making money and preventing boredom. They can also try a volunteer activity, as kids do better when they are a part of something. For college age students, having an internship or continuing work on their educational goals will keep them focused. Summer is a good time to investigate their strengths and interests.
Adults can also see an increase in mental health issues during the summer. Typically, you hear about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the winter months, but NAMI suggests that some people experience it in the summer months. Symptoms tend to be weight loss, minimal appetite, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. Adults can try making time for outdoor activities, starting an exercise program, and utilizing vacation days to combat seasonal depression.
The summer months may require a little extra planning to maintain good mental health. It’s helpful to try getting outside more to enjoy the weather. It is also beneficial to try limiting your children’s and your time online or watching TV or playing video games. Continuing medications regularly and getting plenty of sleep and exercise are important, too. Communicating with your family members to make sure expectations are clear and establishing a routine will help structure the summer. If any symptoms or mental health issues seem to worsen over the summer, it is always best to seek the advice of a medical professional.
Lori Atkinson, Operations Director for The Kim Foundation
Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools from 1992 – 2000, a stay at home mom for several years, and then started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory during 2010. Lori carries out many duties for The Kim Foundation which includes: scheduling presentations in the community, hosting booths at conferences, managing the Art & Creative Writing Contest, coordinating the School Resource Fair, organizing the Suicide Prevention PSA Contest, assisting with the annual luncheon, and participating in the coalition’s community outreach group. Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.