Fun Summer Activities for Kids that Encourage Mental Health

It’s June, and that means school’s out and summer begins. Here are some ways for your kids to have fun while staying mentally healthy and on top of their school “smarts.”
Read. It is essential to encourage your child to pick up a book (or a few). A study by The Reading Agency showed that nonacademic reading allows for better parent-child communication, increased self-esteem and empathy, reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improved overall well being.
Plan activities. Structured activities have been shown to improve mental resiliency by allowing kids to interact with others and develop a sense of independence.
Get outside. Even a bike ride or walk around the neighborhood ignites all of the senses, increases Vitamin D, boosts body confidence and improves nonverbal communication.
Turn off the TV and get active.  Exercise encourages the brain to release endorphins (“feel good” hormones). Especially in the summer when heat may put stress on your child, swimming is a great source of exercise and mood improvement.
Craft. Crafts are great indoor alternatives that encourage confidence, concentration and self-awareness.
Family Time. Unfortunately, very few parents can take off the entire summer. But, as you’re able, take a few hours (or days) to enjoy the summer months with your family.  Even board games and family dinners increase mental health.  It’s good for you, too! Local newspapers or websites often list free activities for families, or check out this list of ideas for free or cheap summer activities.

Additional Tips:
• Maintain a structured schedule
• Create a visual calendar for upcoming plans and events
• Uphold boundaries that were in place during the school year

Father is…

Dr. Pablo Goldberg wrote the following reflection on what the word “father” means to him.  On Father’s Day, we honor the work that goes into parenting, and hope that Dads can find time to relax and enjoy themselves with their families. 

Father is big, powerful, immense, like a mountain, like the sea, like the plains….

Father encompasses, protects…like a shoe he fits us, warms us up like clothes…he is ubiquitous….

Father is a noun, an adjective and a verb at the same time, but beyond the grammar…it exists, qualifies and conjugates the Universe of us.

Father is the beginning of us, the teacher, the ancestor, the root, the anchor.…

Father, feder, pater…Dada, Papa, Popp…Indo-European…Latin.

Father is not a degree conferred by any school, but by life….achieved by doing, by caring, by loving,  providing, by laughing, by crying, by supporting…by instilling confidence….

When I think about a father, I do not think about a generic or abstract one; I think about my father, I think about my grandfather…I think about my lineage….

I then go to Adam, to Abraham and his sacrifice….I go to Abraham Lincoln, to San Martin, my country hero…to Otto Frank…to  the character  Atticus Finch…to Jean Valjean…to the Roberto Benigni character, being that protective father in Life is Beautiful or Jimmy Stewart being a sacrificed one in It’s a Wonderful Life…or the suffering father losing his bike and his job in The Bicycle Thief…the steady one, ready to be a mother if necessary in Mrs. Doubtfire, or  Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, or Will Smith  doing everything for his son in The Pursuit of Happiness and so many heroes and unsung ones……many ordinary fathers……getting up every morning to be there, to exercise their role with or without their partners…to strive for the life of their families, for their nest, to go hunting for the daily survival, the daily loaf of bread.

It is the ultimate job, the calling of the blood and of the genes, the biologically strong magnetic role: like a father, like son…like daughter….

Father goes with mother and mother goes with father….

Nature dictates that way…and that is the way we see it: a sperm cell cannot make a living without an ovule and vice versa!

Yet, in our field (psychiatry) we do not always see the fathers with virtues…we see them as well detached, perhaps abusive, depressed, alcoholic…as well…and yet the father figure represents and influences a lot…..because at the end a father is a father!

He can be present, he can be absent…he can be good, he can be bad.…yet…impossible to unlink…to our lives….

He has seen my eyes closed when I barely could breathe and sleep….

He has held my hand in my first steps….

He has held my spoon along with my Mom in my first bites.

He has rocked my cradle when I cried inconsolably.

He has played ball with me and climbed the trees I wanted to climb.

He has timed me out when I had a tantrum without a reason or with a reason.

He has taken me to school and picked me up from there.

He has pushed my bike to give me security when I did not dare go on my own.

He allowed me to partner with him in the fishing by the beach in the early dawn ours.

He taught me to listen to Bach and Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and helped me understand what the cannons of 1812 were.

He taught me a myriad of his childhood tales that I hear mesmerized and I memorized….and I tell to my children.

He sat with me and did not leave my side till I finished the first fifteen pages of a book, pushing my intellect.

He inspired me to taste nature, the forest and the lakes and rivers, the good food and the good wine.

He planted seeds with me and, with me, spelled the botanical Latin jargon for plants and flowers.

He was caught under the rain with me on a long pier, and we had fun splashing through water till finding cover.

He pushed me back to shore when we swam together too far into the ocean.

He taught me not to accept injustice and fight for my right.

He coached me in punching when I had to learn to defend myself.

He taught me that history…and geography…and physics and mathematics can be beautiful, solely if looking at them with passion.

He taught me that D-Day was not only an alphabetical day.

He has been my friend and my mentor.

He has shown me that happiness does not come automatically but is an attitude… that in order to obtain a reward, sacrifice is needed with hard work.

And most importantly that freedom is our capacity to choose our destiny and be responsible for it.

Adding to the medley, which makes a constellation of shooting memories and shining moments: Celluloid of life: is the starting point: I, me.

I toil with children and with their fathers, their mothers.

Cicero once said, “Of all nature’s gifts to the human race, what is sweeter to a man than his children?”   I would tell him, these gifts are not for granted, and these children are of that man!

My father is me and is my children and the children of my children: my father is history and my father is destiny: and as when we see through a telescope and we see the light of a solar system that no longer is…..his light will kindle and will kindle through: I just hold the torch, never dimming throughout.

Youth and Young Adult Suicide Prevention Resources

Youth & Young Adult Suicide Prevention Resources for Parents and Concerned Adults

by Christa D. Labouliere, Ph.D.

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults aged 15-24, accounting for more deaths each year than all natural causes combined. In the U.S., an adolescent or young adult dies by suicide approximately every hour and a half, and for every death by suicide, there are 15-25 times as many suicide attempts.

The tragedy is that this loss of life is preventable. Suicidal crises usually pass, and treatment is available that can reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors. So how does a parent or concerned adult know if their child or one of their child’s friends is at risk? What should they do if they suspect a teen or young adult may be having suicidal thoughts? We have compiled some information and resources that may help.


It can be very difficult to figure out if a youth or young adult is at-risk for suicide. However, educating yourself on the warning signs can be a first step. The following list was compiled by a group of national and international experts:

Warning signs include:

Talking about or making plans for suicide

  • Making statements like “Everyone would be better off if I were dead” or “I should just kill myself”
  • Researching methods for killing oneself on the internet
  • Seeking access to ways to kill oneself, such as buying/compiling medications, locating a gun or knife, or finding dangerous locations (i.e., rooftops, train tracks, etc.) that are easily accessible
  • Giving away important possessions, like a prized guitar, phone, or computer
  • Saying good-bye to family and friends or writing a suicide note

Expressing hopelessness about the future

    • Making statements like “Nothing will ever go right for me” or “Nothing will ever get better”
    • Seeming disinterested in future planning for things like school or college, seeking a driver’s license, or getting a job
    • Losing interest in things they previously cared deeply about. For example, if an athlete no longer cared about an important game or an honors student did not care when they failed a test

Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress

  • External signs of emotional pain or distress may include withdrawal or frequent crying, panic, or angry outbursts.
  • Suicide is frequently associated with mental health concerns, including depression or extreme sadness. However, depression is not the only precursor to suicidality. Some youth feel apathy or like nothing matters, have strong mood swings, or are very irritable. Other youth feel overwhelming anxiety, panic, or worry and do not know how to tolerate or change these feelings. Disordered eating, impulsive or reckless behavior, and alcohol or drug misuse are also associated with increased risk for suicide.
  • Self-injury, such as intentionally cutting, scratching, or burning oneself, is not necessarily a suicide attempt, but does put youth or young adults at increased risk for suicide.
  • Previous suicide attempts also increase the risk for future suicide attempts.
  • If a youth recently went through a big loss or disappointment, such as a break-up with a significant other, familial discord or divorce, being cut from a sports team, academic failure, disciplinary or legal trouble, etc., this may cause emotional pain or distress. While negative emotional reactions to disappointment or loss are normal, prolonged, overwhelming, or severe/inconsolable distress is not.

Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:

  • Withdrawal from or changes in social connections/situations
  • Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
  • Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
  • Recent increased agitation, restlessness, or irritability

More information on these warning signs is available at:


Given that over 15% of youth and young adults have considered suicide in the past year, it is very likely that you may come in contact with a child, teen, or young adult who is having suicidal thoughts. A youth at-risk may be your child’s friend or schoolmate; in your Scouts troop, sports league, or community theatre group; or at your local community center, church, or synagogue. Anyone who knows a youth or young adult well can identify and help a youth at-risk for suicide.  A parent, relative, coach, teacher, or any trusted adult may be the first to recognize if something is wrong.


Experts recommend these ways to approach and assist a youth or young adult at-risk for suicide:

  1. Ask them if they are ok or if they are thinking of hurting or killing themselves. Do not be afraid to ask directly – “Are you having thoughts of hurting or killing yourself?” Asking youth and young adults about suicide will not “put the idea in their heads.” In fact, for those who are considering suicide, many feel relief when they can discuss their thoughts and feelings.
  2. Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior. “It seems as though you’re really depressed lately and that worries me.” Or, “What you said about wanting to hurt yourself really concerns me.”
  3. Listen to them attentively and non-judgmentally. Youth and young adults considering suicide need your support, not to have their experiences dismissed as silly, dramatic, or an over-reaction. Don’t interrupt or try to say things are not as bad as they think. Rather, let them talk about their thoughts and feelings and be a good listener.
  4. Reflect on what they share and let them know they have been heard. Do not be afraid to repeat back to them or summarize what you have heard to make sure you understand. “It sounds like you have been really sad and angry over arguments at home and with your girlfriend.” Don’t pass judgment on their statements; just let them know that you have been listening and understand why they are upset.
  5. Tell them they are not alone. Having mental health concerns can be very isolating and can make youth and young adults feel like they are different from everyone else or no one else can understand. Let them know that they aren’t the only one and that other people have felt this way before – overwhelmed, depressed, scared, angry. Even more importantly, let them know that you and others care and are there to support them.
  6. Let them know there are treatments available that can help. Feeling suicidal usually means that a youth or young adult is feeling hopeless and out of better options for escaping unbearabe painful emotions or situations. Many youth feel as though no one can help them. Let them know that treatment CAN help.
  7. Guide them to professional help. Know what resources are available to connect youth to the help they need, including professional mental health workers, informal community sources of help, crisis lines, and information available online. If you believe the youth is in imminent danger of harming him/herself, call 911 or take him or her directly to the emergency room.

More information for parents, guardians, and other concerned adults on how to help is available at:


  • Remain hopeful so you can give your child hope. Suicide is preventable and treatable.
  • Take any opportunity to tell your child that you know s/he is struggling, but that you support him/her and things will get better. Let him/her know that you are listening and you want to understand how s/he is feeling.
  • Get help. See our list of resources for more information and treatment options.
  • Work with a mental health professional to focus treatment on keeping your child safe and helping him/her to get well. Treatment may include developing coping skills, changing certain thought or behavioral patterns, creating a safety plan, increasing parental monitoring, and removing potentially lethal means from the home.
  • For youth and young adults, making the home safe is critical. Parents should restrict access or remove dangerous items from the home entirely. This is especially important with regard to firearms (the leading cause of death by suicide), but may also include caustic liquids, sharp objects, medications, or items that could be used for hanging.
  • The stress of caring for a suicidal child is sometimes overwhelming. Remember: you cannot help your child if you do not take care of yourself first. The goal is for you not to feel alone in this difficult situation, so seek support from a spouse, friend, family member, or therapist.


Get help now!

  • If you think that someone may need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The hotline is available 24/7, and your call is free and confidential. Trained crisis workers in your area can assist you and the youth or young adult in deciding what they need right now.
  • Remember, if youth or young adults are at-risk for harming themselves right now or have already harmed themselves, call 911 or take them to an emergency room immediately.
  • Looking for a mental health professional near you? Try the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator:

Suicide Prevention Resources for Parents and Families

  • National Institute of Mental Health:

Comprehensive information on mental illness, government-funded research, and information about treatment.

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots organization for people with mental illness and their families.

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

A non-profit organization dedicated to reducing loss of life from suicide. The website offers tips on how to reach out to those at-risk for suicide, helpful statistics, and resources in every state.

AAS is an organization for all those involved in suicide prevention and intervention, or touched by suicide. AAS is a leader in the advancement of scientific and programmatic efforts in suicide prevention through research, education and training, the development of standards and resources, and survivor support services.

Suicide Prevention Resources for Teens and Young Adults

The hotline and online chat line are available 24/7, and your call is free and confidential.

  • Phone Apps

 Virtual Hope Box

MY3 – Support Network

Relief Link



Mother’s (Mental Health) Day

Photo (c) Ivan Jekic
Photo (c) Ivan Jekic

What does Mother’s Day mean? For many families it signifies roses, brunch, breakfast in bed, gifts, cards and phone calls to moms and grandmothers to say “thank you for caring for us each and every day.”

Any mother will tell you, though, that the very most important Mother’s Day present is the acknowledgement that Mom, the caregiver, needs care and support, too. Emotional, mental, and physical health is the gift toward which we all strive. Mom is no exception.

Scott Hirose, Ph.D., senior psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian says the recognition is important to help sustain mothers to do their jobs, day in and out. “It’s nice to have a day where everyone in the family is asked to think about how their mothers have been there for them,” says Hirose. “It is such a complex job and it really never lets up.”

It’s fitting that Mother’s Day falls during National Mental Health Awareness Month and National Maternal Depression Awareness Month. Nearly 44 million adults (one in five people) in America experience a mental illness.  Mood disorders are twice as prevalent in women compared with men, particularly during the childbearing years.

Being a parent can be challenging, even when Mom is not dealing with specific mental health issues. “In addition to all of the joys and rewards that come with parenting, there are also a significant number of stressors,” says Colleen Cullen, Psy.D., also a Senior Psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Cullen noted that it is important for mothers to prioritize their own well-being, in addition to that of their children. This may take the form of self-care activities, like taking time to exercise, socialize with friends and loved ones or just spend a few quiet minutes alone.  “For mothers who are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns, it may be helpful for them to seek treatment,” says Dr. Cullen.  “By taking care of themselves, mothers set a healthy example for their children and are also better able to manage the everyday challenges that come along with parenting in an effective manner.”

Here are four steps for improving mental health:   

  1. Get support:  Help can come from many people and places–your social network, your family, your physician, or a trained professional such as a social worker, a psychologist, or a social worker.
  2. Know that you are not alone:  As First Lady Michelle Obama recently said, “It’s time to tell everyone dealing with a mental health issue that they are not alone, and that getting support isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”  The Importance and the Opportunity.
  3. Manage stress: Everyone experiences stress. But sometimes stress becomes more than we feel we can manage.  The National Institute of Mental Health has these tips for handling stress in your life. If you feel you can’t manage on your own, repeat steps one and two!
  4. Be kind to yourself:  This really falls under managing stress, but we can’t stress enough the importance of being nice to yourself and mom on all days–not just Mother’s Day.  Take a mental health day (or minute) now and then. Breath, relax, rejuvenate.