Tips for Family Members

How to talk to your kids about mental illness:  tips for parents

Parents may feel unsure about how to approach the subject of mental health or mental illness with their children. The organization Erika's LIghthouse has prepared a Parent Handbook with a tips for speaking with children about depression, and how to get help. Their suggestions can be adapted for conversations about other mental health concerns as well.   

In addition to sharing this link, you may wish to refer them to the organization’s website, for additional information and guidance.

National Organizations

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
    Founded in 1987, this non-profit organization funds research, creates educational programs, advocates for public policy, and supports survivors of suicide loss. They host programs and events nationwide.
  • Erika's Lighthouse
    Their mission is to educate school communities about teen depression, eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and empower teens to take charge of their mental health.
  • Families for Depression Awareness
    Founded in 2001, this non-profit organization is made up of families who have lost a member to suicide or watched one suffer with depression. Its mission is to help families recognize and cope with depressive disorders in order to heal and prevent suicides.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health
    NIMH is the world's largest scientific organization dedicated to research on understanding, treating, and preventing mental disorders, and promoting mental health. One helpful link is "Mental Health Topics" listed under "Heath & Outreach" on NIMH's home page.
  • Teen Depression: A Guide for Parents and Teachers
    This web page is provided by, established in 1999.  It is a good basic guide that offers help on understanding teen depression, recognizing signs and symptoms, dealing with the effects of teen depression, how to aid a depressed teenager, and how to support a teen through treatment.  A list of useful references and resources follows at the bottom of the page.
  • Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teens
    This web page is from the Anxiety Disorders of America, a national nonprofit organization established in 1980 and dedicated to informing the public about anxiety disorders.  Scroll down to see a helpful list of resources about anxiety in children and adolescents. 
  • Helping a Friend or Family Member 
    A pamphlet created by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) on how to help a family member or friend cope with depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Partnering with Your Child's School: A Guide for Parents
    A booklet designed to help parents of children who have been diagnosed with health or mental health care needs to learn about available resources and to develop a partnership with their children’s school.
  • What Helps and What Hurts 
    A one-page guideline created by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) on positive ways to address a person suffering from depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens 
    A helpful web page from Palo Alto Medical Foundation on bipolar disorder in children and teenagers focusing on causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and frequently asked questions.
  • Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression) 
    A helpful web page by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center that focuses on various aspects of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents.  It differientiates between Bipolar I and Bipolar II.
  • Taking Your Child to a Therapist 
    An informative web page run by the Nemours Foundations, which was established in 1936 and is dedicated “to improving the health and spirit of children.”  Gives reasons why your child should seek therapy, how to find the right therapist, and defines what various therapists do (such as psychiatrists and social workers).