The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available nationwide! If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, text or call 9-8-8 to get assistance and support from trained counselors or help with finding local resources.
Telemynd Achieves HITRUST CSF® Certification to Manage Risk, Improve Security Posture, and Meet Compliance RequirementsHITRUST CSF Certification validates Telemynd is committed to meeting key regulations and protecting sensitive information.
Maynard, Massachusetts, December 6, 2021 – Telemynd, a leading provider of behavioral health solutions, today announced the MyCare telebehavioral health solution has earned Certified status for information security by HITRUST.
HITRUST CSF Certified status demonstrates that the organization’s MyCare telebehavioral health solution has met key regulations and industry-defined requirements and is appropriately managing risk. This achievement places Telemynd in an elite group of organizations worldwide that have earned this certification. By including federal and state regulations, standards, and frameworks, and incorporating a risk-based approach, the HITRUST CSF helps organizations address these challenges through a comprehensive and flexible framework of prescriptive and scalable security controls.
“Organizations, like ours, are under more pressure than ever to meet complex compliance and privacy requirements that include technical and process elements such as NIST, ISO, and COBIT,” said Patrick Herguth, Chief Executive Office at Telemynd. “We are pleased to demonstrate to our customers the highest standards for protecting sensitive data and information by achieving HITRUST CSF Certification.”
“The HITRUST CSF Assurance Program is the most rigorous available, consisting of a multitude of quality assurance checks, both automated and manual,” said Bimal Sheth, Vice President of Assurance Services, HITRUST. “The fact that Telemynd has achieved HITRUST CSF Certification attests to the high quality of their information risk management and compliance program.”
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Both therapists and prescribers work with you to help improve your mental health, but they offer vastly different services. If you’ve decided it’s time to see a provider but you’re not sure what kind of support you need, read this guide to find out which could be the best fit for you.
Therapist or Prescriber — Which Is Right For Me?
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In the three years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown policies, there has been a dramatic uptick in mental health concerns among kindergarten through 12th-grade students. According to the Children's Hospital Association, during the height of the pandemic in 2020, the number of children visiting the emergency room for mental health rose dramatically. By 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued an advisory declaring a mental health crisis for American children. The report noted that “an alarming number” of young people struggle with “feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide.”
In the ensuing years, school districts have looked for novel ways to support students in need. Many states have prioritized hiring counselors and school psychologists or offering social-emotional curricula designed to raise awareness of mental health concerns. A few states have started allowing students to take excused absences to manage mental and behavioral health concerns.
The Value of Mental Health Days
Students with ongoing mental health struggles often need time during the school day to get the care they need. Appointments with providers may overlap with school hours and lead to absences. Students adjusting to medication changes or managing periods of mental health crisis may not be well enough to attend school.
Excused absences allow students undergoing mental health treatment to take the time they need without concern about truancy violations or having to repeat a grade. Furthermore, a policy of excusing absences for mental health ensures that students can get support from teachers as they make up missed work.
Many students who don’t have diagnosed mental health conditions experience periods of mental distress or emotional fatigue. In an interview with the Washington Post, Barb Solish, director of Youth and Young Adult Initiatives for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), noted that an excused day off is beneficial to those students as well.
“When students are feeling physically unwell, there is a universal understanding that they should stay home and they should take time to feel better,” Solish said. “School policies that recognize mental health as an acceptable reason for absence can help students take the time they need to care for themselves and restore their health. Practically speaking, if you have a fever, you’re not paying attention in class, right? You’re not learning the lesson. If you’re feeling overwhelming anxiety, you’re not learning either.”
What States Allow Mental Health Days in School?
As of summer 2023, 12 states have passed laws explicitly excusing school absences for mental health reasons. The specifics of the laws vary, with some states requiring a written excuse from a mental health care provider and other states asking only that students and parents explain the reason for their absence. Some states limit the number of days students can be absent for mental health care.
Arizona: As of 2021, students in Arizona are allowed to take mental health days off from school, though each school district can set its own policies. California: In 2021, California enacted a law that allows students to miss school due to mental or behavioral health concerns. In addition, all public schools must include mental health content in their health education curriculum. Colorado: In 2020, Colorado passed a bill allowing students to take mental health days and requiring school district attendance requirements to include a policy for excused absences for behavioral health concerns. Connecticut: In 2021, Connecticut passed a law permitting all students to take two non-consecutive mental health wellness days per year. Illinois: Starting in 2022, Illinois public schools must allow students to take up to five mental health days per year and treat them as excused absences. Students and parents will need to explicitly state that they are using a mental health day absence when they call into their school. Kentucky: In 2022, Kentucky passed a law making days off from school for reasons related to mental health excused absences. Maine: In 2020, Maine enacted a bill that would allow students to take days off school for mental and behavioral health reasons. Nevada: In 2021, Nevada passed a law allowing students aged 7-18 to miss a day of school for mental health reasons with a written note from a mental healthcare provider. Oregon: In 2019, Oregon passed a law allowing students to take up to five days off school within a three-month period, including days for mental health or physical illness. Utah: In 2021, Utah adopted a law making mental or behavioral health an excused absence. Virginia: In 2019, Virginia passed a law allowing students to use mental health as a valid excuse for absence. Washington: In 2022, the state of Washington enacted a new law that will allow students to use mental or behavioral health reasons as a valid excuse for an absence. A handful of other state legislatures have proposed laws to revise state absence policy to include excused absence for mental health concerns. Since 2019, lawmakers in New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and Delaware have tried to pass legislation in support of excused mental health days, but the bills were unsuccessful. It is not clear if lawmakers will try again in the future.
States With No Official Policy on Mental Health Days
The majority of states have no official guidance about mental health-related absences. That doesn’t mean students can’t take time out of school to care for their mental health, however. Even in states where there aren’t laws on the books, individual school districts may have policies that accommodate students who need time for mental health care.
For example, Maryland failed to pass a law about excused absence for mental health reasons. However, the New York Times reports that Montgomery County, home to the largest district in the state, implemented a policy of excusing absences taken for “student illness and well-being” beginning in 2021.
Adults should contact school administrators to find out the attendance policies for their school district and discuss how to arrange for the time their child needs for mental health care.
What Counts as a Mental Health Day?
Lawmakers have worked to balance the pros and cons of mental health days for students. Some of the laws protecting time off for mental health reasons are meant as a way for students to access professional mental health care. California’s law was written to “ensure that student absences for behavioral health concerns will be treated the same as excused absences for physical health concerns.” The law’s advocates hope that allowing students to miss school for mental health reasons will reduce barriers to getting the care they need.
In contrast, Connecticut supports mental wellness days for students who may not have ongoing mental health concerns. The law allows time for kids who need a break to recharge. “The idea behind providing two mental wellness days is first to support self-care and help create good mental wellness habits early in life,” said state Rep. Liz Linehan, co-chair of the Committee on Children. “Secondly, by classifying mental health days, we reduce the stigma of mental health concerns and give our kids a way to talk to the adults in their lives about their struggles.”
In Illinois, schools are required to follow up with parents when students take more than one day off for mental health reasons. This gives school counselors an opportunity to offer support if the student needs it. Schools can refer students for counseling or work with parents to open a dialog with their students about what they need.
Changing Policy in Your State
If your home state doesn’t offer excused absences for students to seek mental health treatment, you can advocate for change. Residents can contact state lawmakers directly to tell them why students should have mental health days. Most lawmakers post their contact information on their official websites. In addition, residents can reach out to state and local boards of education to ask for better policies around student mental health.
Local and state-level education groups like the PTA often have committees that advocate for state policy changes that benefit students. Joining your school’s PTA and speaking to leadership is a good way to connect with others working to support students. In addition, organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) advocate at the state and local levels. You can get on their email list to receive alerts about opportunities to advocate for student mental health.
In the short term, adults caring for children with mental health concerns can talk to teachers, counselors, and school administrators about accommodating the child’s need for care. There may be local resources available to assist you.
Back-to-school time can be exciting for kids. It can also open up worries about making and keeping friends. The social aspects of school are often just as important as the academic aspects.
Children and teens enjoy the company of their peers and have more fun when they have companionship and support from people of the same age. Childhood friendships are also an important part of a child's emotional development.
Every adult who cares for children wants that child to have friends. In addition, adults want to see kids learn how to be a good friend. Parents can assist in this learning process and help children develop the skills to make lasting, beneficial friendships.
Why Friendships Matter
Friendships are how children learn to navigate social and emotional interactions with other people. In early childhood, playtime with other children is a place where kids learn about cooperation, empathy, and positive interactions. As kids become teens, their friends act as a support network, encouraging one another in sports, school, and times of stress. These friendships can build self-esteem and improve academic success. Some research shows that strong friendships in the teen years can set the stage for better mental health into adulthood.
Parents and other caregivers can help children cultivate a friendship in obvious ways, like setting up playdates and giving kids rides to see their friends. In addition, adults can help children and teens understand what makes a healthy, positive friendship and how to avoid social relationships that may be harmful in the long run.
Model Healthy Friendships
Showing children behavior that they should emulate is one of the most tried-and-true tactics in parenting. Children observe adult behavior even before they can speak. They imitate what they see, whether that's pretending to drive the car or saying "please" and “thank you."
Adults can use this method to model healthy friendships by engaging in behaviors such as:
Demonstrating empathy, kindness, and respect in their own relationships Engaging in active listening and asking thoughtful questions when interacting with adult friends Saying kind things to and about one another Offering to help others Avoiding speaking unkindly about friends who aren't present Demonstrating the value of diverse friendships by taking opportunities to interact with a variety of people Teach Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills
Friend drama is an inevitable part of life. Kids are engaged in a learning process as they make friendships, and there will be trial and error as they learn. Hurt feelings and disagreements will come up between any group of friends. Teaching them emotional awareness and the ability to communicate emotions can help kids learn to manage conflicts.
Parents and caregivers can help kids handle episodes of conflict by giving them strong communication tools. This is accomplished by:
Teaching children the words to express their feelings so they can explain their actions and reactions effectively Giving children opportunities to talk through what happened and how they feel about it without criticizing or judging them Helping children understand why they feel the way they do and what would make them feel better Teach Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
Empathy and emotional intelligence can bolster a child's communication skills. Both of these qualities involve being aware of and sensitive to other people's feelings. Understanding how others feel is the first step in teaching kids to respond in positive and appropriate ways.
Jamil Zaki, a Stanford University neuroscientist, told the Washington Post that empathy has three dimensions. "One is emotional, vicariously sharing what other people around us view," Zaki explained. "The other is cognitive, which is trying to understand what other people feel and why. And the third is compassion or empathic concern."
Adults can help kids learn about all the dimensions of empathy and emotions with actions such as:
Talking about feelings and connecting them to actions or situations Naming emotions and discussing what kids want when they feel a particular way Helping kids identify clues about emotions in other people Talking to children about how they can respond to others in empathetic and sympathetic ways Empathy and emotional intelligence are also tools that help kids identify incidents when others are not responding appropriately. Children who understand how empathetic relationships should feel will be better able to avoid or leave relationships with people who lack empathy.
Identify Healthy vs. Unhealthy Friendships
Adults should keep an eye on their kids' friendships to make sure the relationship is healthy for the child. Unhealthy or toxic friendships can be detrimental to children, leading to possible emotional distress or engaging in harmful behaviors. As kids get older, harmful relationships may become abusive or coercive. If a child seems to be in an unhealthy friendship, talk to them about the situation.
Observe kids to ensure they and their friends behave in ways consistent with healthy relationships, such as:
Treating each other as equals Being honest and trustworthy Respecting personal boundaries Celebrating each other's successes Standing up for one another Refrain from using peer pressure In addition, look for signs of negative relationships, such as:
Power imbalances between friends Unkind words or behaviors Excessive interpersonal drama Excessive jealousy or possessiveness Excessive competition Controlling behaviors, using social exclusion or bullying Encouragement of rule-breaking Balance Online and Offline Friendships
Many kids, especially teens, interact with friends online. Kids use online gaming, social media, texting, and group communication tools like Discord to talk to friends they know in real life. Research shows that these interactions can deepen real-world friendships and allow kids to continue friendships with people who live far away.
However, online activity should not replace face-to-face interactions. A study from 2014 showed that screen time can affect how well kids interpret body language and facial expressions. Moreover, excessive online time causes a more sedentary lifestyle, which has negative health effects.
Another risk with online interactions is stranger danger. Kids may meet new people on virtual platforms and form friendships with them. Adults need to equip kids with knowledge of online safety to protect them from online predators. Parents should monitor their children's online interactions and employ parental controls on apps to protect kids from people who would harm them.
Encourage Shared Interests and Hobbies
Activities and hobbies are some of the best ways for kids and teens to meet new friends. Sports, art classes, Scout troops, religious youth groups, and after-school clubs are great ways for kids to meet other kids with their interests. This can be especially beneficial for kids who struggle in social situations or don't connect easily with peers. Finding others who already share at least one interest gives them a starting point for forming a friendship.
Parents should take the opportunity to encourage children to have strong friendships from preschool and beyond. Being a good friend and maintaining strong, healthy friendships are skills that will benefit kids for the rest of their lives.
Many parents and experts ask, "Should kids have social media?" Deciding when they are old enough for social media apps and which ones they can use is a complex issue. Social media use among teens is already ubiquitous. One survey reports that up to 95% of teens use a social media platform, and about a third say they're scrolling, posting, or otherwise engaged with social media "almost constantly."
This can be a source of concern to parents who worry when kids are constantly glued to their phones. Adults have justifiable fears that kids will encounter inappropriate material or be approached by strangers. On the other hand, parents may also see their kids using social media to communicate with friends, share favorite music, or organize in-person social events.
Figuring out how to ensure kids are safe and happy online is an ongoing process for all parents.
Negative Effects of Social Media on Mental Health
Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon. Research about how it affects human development is ongoing, and there are no definitive answers yet.
The American Psychological Association acknowledges that there is significant potential for harm to kids' mental health, but the degree varies among individuals. They note, "Not all findings apply equally to all youth. Scientific findings offer one piece of information that can be used along with knowledge of specific youths' strengths, weaknesses, and context to make decisions that are tailored for each teen, family, and community."
There are known risks for social media use. A 2019 study revealed that teens who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to teens who spend less time online.
Some kids may experience negative feelings related to comparing themselves to others online. Cyberbullying and hateful comments can negatively affect kids and teens. Exposure to content that contains hateful, violent, or bigoted material can increase feelings of anxiety and depression.
Positive Effects of Social Media
For some kids and teens, social media use may not be problematic. It may even be beneficial. Online interaction can deepen friendships and increase feelings of connectedness. Technology can give kids and teens a way to stay in touch with friends or family who live far away. Gaming sites and video chatting provide real-time interactions and shared activities. Some social media platforms enable kids to showcase artwork, writing, or music.
Setting social media boundaries and expectations requires accounting for all of these factors and applying them to individual children appropriately.
Understanding Your Child's Relationship With Social Media
Before parents can set boundaries on social media use, they need to assess how their kids are using social media. For children just getting their first phone, they may not have any social media accounts. Some kids may use gaming sites with chat functions where all interactions happen in real time. Other kids may have accounts on apps like Instagram, Snapchat, or Reddit, where they can send and post comments, photos, and videos. Parents can start the conversation by asking thoughtful questions, such as:
What sites or apps do kids use? What do they do on social media? Do they post, comment, communicate with DMs, or just look at things other people post? Why do kids like the apps and websites they use? How do online interactions make them feel? What apps and websites do their peers use? Grasping what appeals to kids about online communication can guide discussions about using it safely and wisely. For example, it's important to know if a teen uses private messaging to chat with a friend who has moved away. Adults can take positive uses of social media into account when setting guidelines for use overall.
Establishing Collaborative Guidelines With Your Child
One of the goals for setting rules about social media use is to help kids be mindful of how they spend time online. Rather than setting arbitrary rules, it can be better to have a discussion with kids about online time. Ask them why they spend time on social media apps, what they enjoy about using them, and what they don't enjoy. Ask about how their peers use social media to get a sense of the social media environment in which they operate.
Together, parents and children can build a list of guidelines about how they use social media and how much time they spend online each day. Clearly explain expectations about social media, school, extracurricular commitments, and daily time. Work with kids and teens to find a way to fit social media in around higher priority activities. Set time limits if appropriate. Create an agreement about who they can accept as friends and what privacy settings they employ.
There are pros and cons of parents monitoring social media use. Giving kids privacy is important, but adults also need to be firm about the need for social media safety for kids. Using parental controls to limit and monitor the use of apps can protect kids from predators.
Some families find it helpful to create a contract about social media use. Adults and kids then have a written agreement that they can both use to guide behavior moving forward. Organizations like Common Sense Media offer samples of social media contracts for families.
Identifying Warning Signs of Excessive Use
Excessive use of social media isn't healthy for people of any age. Spending too much time online can distract people from other responsibilities and real-life relationships and exacerbate health issues related to a sedentary lifestyle.
Some kids and teens may fall into a habit of excessive social media use without realizing it's happening. The American Psychological Association (APA) lists the following signs of excessive social media use:
A tendency to use social media even when adolescents want to stop or realize it is interfering with necessary tasks Spending excessive effort to ensure continuous access to social media Strong cravings to use social media or disruptions in other activities from missing social media use too much Repeatedly spending more time on social media than intended Lying or deceptive behavior to retain access to social media use Loss or disruption of significant relationships or educational opportunities because of media use The APA advises parents to regularly assess whether kids are showing signs of problematic social media use. If screen time use is becoming problematic, adults should share their concerns with the child. To change behavior, adults can increase restrictions on the amount of time kids spend online and the kinds of apps or games they are using. Adults should also present kids with alternative activities to replace social media use.
Encouraging Offline Activities and Interactions
One tried and true tactic for getting kids off devices is to offer alternative activities that they enjoy. Many kids feel a little lost when adults say, "Put down the tablet and find something else to do." Adults can help by presenting options of what "something else" can be.
Scheduling regular in-person activities, such as sports, art classes, music lessons, or other interests, is an easy way to plan offline time. Family activities such as camping, hiking, board games, shared meals, and outings to museums, sporting events, and plays can also provide an alternative to online time. Many kids and teens will agree to put devices away during unstructured time with their friends. No screen playdates can foster independent, offline play and strengthen friendships.
Leading by Example
Parents and caregivers can show kids what healthy social media use looks like and talk to them about how they choose to engage with social media. This sets a strong example for kids. Model setting good boundaries with social media rules, such as:
Phone-free meals Periods each day where the whole family stays offline Cutting out all phone use while driving In-person family activities without phones Adults who are concerned that social media is causing mental health problems in a child or teen should reach out to a healthcare provider or mental health professional. Changing social media habits may cut off the source of the problem, but young people will need help dealing with the longer-term effects. Everyone in the family may benefit from talking with a counselor to understand how social media affects them and how to avoid future difficulties.
Quality mental health care should be available to everyone, no matter where they live. That’s why we built Telemynd, an easy-to-use telebehavioral health platform where you can see therapists and prescribers virtually so that you can always feel confident about the future of your mental health.
We understand that needs vary from person to person, and unlike many telebehavioral health providers, we offer services that are specifically designed to support people living with more severe behavioral health conditions.
Demand for mental health services grew in the pandemic, and telebehavioral health was the solution. Research says telehealth demand will stay high post-pandemic.