Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed during May to raise awareness about mental health and educate those in need on available resources. The 2023 theme for Mental Health Awareness Month, “More Than Enough,” was chosen to emphasize that even just showing up for yourself to heal is more than enough because everyone is inherently worthy of more than enough life, love, and healing. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a stable and healthy mental state during childhood plays a significant role in children reaching developmental and emotional milestones, healthy social skills, and coping mechanisms. Below are some tips for talking to your children about mental health.

Have Frequent Conversations 

If your child has a mental health condition or is experiencing distress, it is important to check in with them to keep lines of communication open. Talking to your child about their feelings can be challenging, especially if you are concerned they are already struggling. When addressing these issues, speak in a straightforward manner and at a level appropriate to their age and development level. Implementing an activity into the occasion before diving into the conversation can help associate the meetings in a positive light for your child. If you’re unsure how to start the conversation, you can download a list of conversation starters to use with your children here.

Create a Safe Space

With the stigma often associated with mental health conditions, it is natural for even children to be embarrassed to talk about their thoughts and emotions. Providing a judgment-free zone when speaking with your child is critical. Ensure the environment you create not just throughout your conversation but also in your home offers a space specific to your child’s needs to express themselves. Here are some tips to consider when responding:  

  • Validate their feelings. Responses such as, “It’s understandable that you’re feeling…” can help comfort them that their feelings/emotions are okay.
  • Thank them for sharing their thoughts and acknowledge their bravery in opening up.
  • Offer help or coping mechanisms you can practice together. 
  • Emphasize your love for them and support for them. 
  • Reassure them it’s okay to talk to others about their feelings. If your child is distressed, encourage them to seek support if a third party would make them feel more comfortable, such as contacting the Lines for Life 24/7 Hotline.

Encourage Their Curiosity and Learning 

Oftentimes your child will be curious to learn more about the emotions they feel or information on mental illness as a whole. Ensure your conversations are a safe space for your child to express their curiosity on a particular topic. If you do not have all the best information, discuss the concerns and questions with your child’s medical provider or counselor. It’s okay to say you don’t know and then work together to find an answer. 

Discuss Self-Care and Prevention 

Mental health effects can be isolating, especially at a young age. Instill self-worth and confidence in your loved ones by teaching them to care for themselves emotionally and physically. Teaching your children to maintain a healthy diet, get exercise, and get sufficient sleep are just some of the many ways you can teach your children to take care of themselves physically. Encouraging healthy habits in times of stress, such as meditation and journaling, are also helpful outlets for children to release stress or manage emotions. 

Do you or is someone you know struggling? Check out the many mental health resources available in Oregon below: 

Statewide Resources 

Lines for Life (24-Hour Crisis Hotline)

Call or text 988

Oregon Youth Line

Phone: 877-968-8491 

Text: teen2teen to 839863

(Available by phone, text, and chat between 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Youth Era

Youth-based organization and resource center focused on supporting young people in crisis with support available by phone, chat, or Twitch.


Clackamas County

Bridges to Change 


Clackamas Crisis and Support Line:


NAMI Clackamas County 

(503) 344-5050

Urgent Mental Health Walk-In Center

(503) 655-8585

11211 SE 82nd Ave Suite O

Happy Valley, OR 97086.  

(Open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

Deschutes County

Deschutes County Mental Health and Adult Treatment Services

(541) 322-7500

Comprehensive Care for Youth and Families

The Deschutes County Stabilization Center

63311 NE Jamison Street, Bend, OR 97703

Crisis Line: 541-322-7500 ext. 9

Jefferson County

BestCare Treatment Services, Inc

(541) 475-6575

Reach Out Oregon 

850 SW 4th Street, Suite 302

Madras, OR 97741


Josephine County

Options for Southern Oregon – Creekside Center

Child/Family Services

1181 Ramsey Avenue

Grants Pass, Oregon 97526

(541) 476-2373

Options for Southern Oregon – Hillside Center

Adult Services

1545 Harbeck Road

Grants Pass, Oregon 97527

(541) 476-2373

24-Hour Hotline 

(541) 474-5360

Lane County

Lane County Behavioral Health

(541) 682-3608

The Child Center


Marion County

Marion County Crisis Line:

(503) 585-4949

Marion County Psychiatric Crisis Center

1118 Oak St SE, Salem, OR 97301

(503) 585-4949

Marion County Youth & Family Crisis Services 

(For Children under 18)

(503) 576-HOPE (4673)

Multnomah County

Cascadia Health 
4212 SE Division St., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97206

(503) 674-7777

Multnomah County Behavioral Health Division 

(503) 988-4888

Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center


David Romprey Oregon Warm Line


NAMI Multnomah County 

(503) 338- 5692

Washington County

Washington County Health and Human Services 

(503) 846-8881

Washington County Crisis Line

(503) 291-9111

Hawthorn Walk-In Center

(Open 9:00 am to 2:00 pm)

5240 NE Elam Young Parkway, Suite 100

Hillsboro, Oregon 97124

NAMI Washington County

LifeWorks NW – Tigard

(503) 684-1424