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Parent Survival Guide: Mental health awareness, focusing on the mental health needs of kids

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 1:13 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Doting father of two Shawn O’Brien says behind the beautiful smiles in pictures of his family there have been years of pain.

O’Brien says this is especially true for his son Tim who has suffered from depression and mental illness since his early teen years.

“We really did not understand what he was dealing with and how real things were,” O’Brien said. As his son got older and entered college O’Brien found out that his son started drinking heavily.

O’Brien says even Tim’s friends noticed his mood and attitude were getting worse.

The situation became more real for the O’Brien family after Shawn found out about his son’s ninth suicide attempt.

“It was at that moment in the ward that he realized his family cared for him. Sometimes people need an intervention to move on for mental health,” O’Brien said. He says the one thing he wishes he did immediately as a parent when his son started showing signs of mental illness was simply listen.

O’Brien also says he wished he believed his son really had a problem earlier, but says it took his son getting to his breaking point for this finally to happen.

“He was willing to listen to us and we’re willing to listen to him so when he was in therapy the whole family was involved not just Tim and how we could work together to put us on the right track. Being on the right medicine allowed the cognitive behavioral therapy to work for him and he’s been powerful enough to share his stories,” O’Brien said.

As a parent, when it comes to kids opening up and talking about how they are feeling O’Brien say it’s important to be ever present and to not overreact.

“Just ask simple questions like how do we help, where do you want to be, who do you want to be, how do you want to feel. They have to be motivated but you have to create a safe environment that they want to talk,” O’Brien said.

Since 2018, O’Brien says his son has had his mental health on track thanks to a proper medication plan, therapy and guidance.

According to the CDC, one in four young people between the ages of 18 and 24 say they’ve considered suicide during to the pandemic.

Anyone who is suffering from mental illness or knows someone suffering from mental illness is encouraged to use the resources listed below:

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