About Kimberly Bell, Ph.D.

Kimberly Bell, Ph.D., is Clinical Director of the Hadden Clinic for Children & Families at Hanna Perkins Center; and is the John A. Hadden, Jr. Professor in Psychoanalytic Child Development at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
A licensed clinical psychologist, she specializes in learning issues, parenting, separation anxiety and women’s issues such as Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMAD).

5 things you can do to support and promote children’s mental health

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Thursday, May 4, 2017 is National Children’s Health Awareness Day.

We talk a lot about this thing called mental health, but what does it really mean and how can we promote it in our children?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Mental health in childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones, and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems.”

Laying a strong foundation from the start can help children develop appropriate emotional, social and coping skills.

Here are 5 things parents can do to promote good mental health.

  1. Help children verbalize feelings from a very young age. The more an individual can use words to describe difficult feelings the less he or she will rely on their body to communicate (e.g. tantrums, hitting or acting out in school).
  2. Help children be problem solvers. Protecting a child from every possible failure sends the message that he or she cannot cope. Facing failures and frustrations in bearable bits helps build emotional muscle that will last a lifetime.
  3. Validate feelings rather than negate or stop them. If a child is crying, there is a valid feeling behind it. Be investigators together and find the reason for the feeling. Telling children they have nothing cry about, or telling them everything will be fine when it may not, teaches them to suppress feelings, rather than building tolerance for hard feelings.
  4. Encourage children to manage their own feelings. Just because a child is angry at you does not mean you have to fix, handle or change the situation. They have a right to their feeling and they have the power to find ways to make themselves feel better – even when life seems unfair.
  5. Promote empathy. Wonder with your child how other people may be feeling, especially when they may have hurt someone else’s feelings. Encourage children to talk through conflicts and hear another point of view. Make an apology a natural part of conflict resolution – rather than words that must be recited to avoid punishment.

This year, on National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day – and all the days that follow – let’s do everything we can to build the foundations for success in our children.

Image courtesy of David Garzon/Freeimages.com

Kimberly Bell, Ph.D. Hadden Clinic at Hanna Perkins Center

Kimberly Bell, Ph.D.
Hadden Clinic at Hanna Perkins Center

7 things you can do right now if you’re suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety

mother-and-baby-1453666-1279x856_douglas john_freeimagesIf you suspect you may have more than the baby blues – any feelings of anxiety or depression that you aren’t sure you can easily handle yourself – the first step is asking for help. Don’t hesitate. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD), as the general category of afflictions is now called, is a real medical condition. It’s not your fault, it’s not your imagination and it can be treated effectively.

But it can take a few days to get in to see your doctor or a mental health professional. In the meantime, here are 7 things you can do right now to help yourself:

  1. Get as much sleep as possible: Sleep can be hard to come by with a new baby. Nap when the baby naps, and let your partner know you need some support to take a break. If you’re a single mom, reach out to any family or friends for respite.
  2. Join a support group online: This will quickly connect you with people who are dealing with similar emotions. It’s not a substitute for the personal, professional help you may need, but it will validate that what you’re feeling is real, and will help you to feel less alone. Here’s one resource.
  3. Exercise: Take a walk or find exercise videos online that you can do at home.
  4. Relax: Do some simple meditation or breathing exercises, or try yoga. Many websites have instructions on how to begin meditating or doing yoga.
  5. Take time for yourself: Spend whatever time you can doing something you enjoy. Taking part in activities that make you happy will help you recharge.
  6. Spend time with other adults: Contact and conversations with adult friends and relatives, even for only a short period of time, are vital.
  7. Eat a healthy diet: Shortly after giving birth, many women become deficient in several essential nutrients. Make sure you’re eating several balanced meals a day, filled with proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.
    Kimberly Bell, Ph.D. Hadden Clinic at Hanna Perkins Center
    Kimberly Bell, Ph.D.
    Hadden Clinic at Hanna Perkins Center

If you feel your symptoms need immediate attention, don’t hesitate to go to your local emergency room or call 911.

Image courtesy of Douglas John/freeimages.com

10 postpartum symptoms new moms should know

in-blue-1251227_Marinela Prodan_freeimagesOf all medical complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth, postpartum mental health difficulties are the most common.

Up to 80% of new mothers experience symptoms usually referred to as the baby blues. But as many as 1-in-5 new mothers suffer more severe symptoms that should be evaluated and possibly treated as postpartum anxiety or depression.

With May being designated National Maternal Depression Awareness Month, here are 10 symptoms new mothers should take seriously:

Symptoms linked with anxiety disorders:

  1. Concern about being alone with your child due to scary thoughts or fears of things in your house that could cause harm.
  2. Racing thoughts that refuse to let you settle down, and which create a strong urge to keep moving.
  3. Physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches and shakiness.
  4. A sense of dread, as if something terrible is going to happen.
  5. Fear of reaching out for help because your child may be taken from you.

Symptoms linked with depression:

  1. Changes in sleep or eating patterns (i.e. sleeping or eating more or less than normal).
  2. Thoughts of hurting yourself or your child.
  3. Feelings of emptiness and a lack of interest in activities that you typically enjoy.
  4. Feeling angry, irritated or resentful toward your child and/or partner.
  5. Not feeling bonded to your child, or feeling guilty about the feelings you have toward your child.

If you or someone you know exhibits any of these symptoms, please ask for help. Talk to your OB-GYN, your pediatrician or call an outpatient mental health clinic in your area.

If you don’t feel satisfied with the answers you are getting, don’t stop asking. You can visit Postpartum Support International (PSI) for an online directory of resources in your area, or call PSI at (800) 944-4773 to get a local referral.

If you’re in the Cleveland area, Hanna Perkins Center (216-991-4472) is equipped to help with consultation, therapy, support groups and knowledgeable referrals as needed.

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) is the medical classification for a variety or specific medical conditions, including postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. These are temporary when treated. So don’t be afraid to get the help you need; you are not alone.

Kimberly Bell, Ph.D. Hadden Clinic at Hanna Perkins Center

Kimberly Bell, Ph.D.
Hadden Clinic at Hanna Perkins Center

For more information check out these respources:

Intern Lillia Borodkin assisted in research and writing this post.

Image courtesy of Marinela Prodan/Freeimages.com