Do your children feel depressed but want to feel happier, feel anxious but want to manage anxiety, or feel like they are worthless but want to feel confident?

For these and other mental health struggles, goal-setting is often an effective way to improve mental health.

Benefits of Setting Goals:

  • Accomplishing goals gives the brain a boost of dopamine, a “feel good” transmitter. In this way, goal setting can make someone feel happier. This is why many people make to-do lists; they feel happy each time they cross something off their list.
  • Performance is improved as your children are supported, challenged, rewarded,and given feedback in their goal setting.
  • Setting goals gives your children valuable experiences and skills, such as resilience, self-esteem, and independence, all of which contribute to healthy mental health.

While setting goals is great, there are some tips to consider to make sure the goals aren’t actually detrimental to your children’s mental health.

Goal-Setting Tips:

  • Leave room for change. Not reaching a goal can cause low self-esteem. Let your children know it’s okay for them to reassess and update their goals often and make changes as necessary to help them meet their goals.
  • Make S.M.A.R.T. goals. To avoid goals that are too hard to reach or end up causing more depression and anxiety, teach your children how to make goals that are specific, measurable (not vague), achievable, relevant (they actually want to do it), and time-bound.
  • Find support. Check on their progress. Encourage them to share their goals with others,and praise their effort.

Whether or not your children struggle with their mental health, goal-setting can be a healthy way to improve and grow, and it’s a great way to kick off the new year.

Making a Safety Plan

A safety plan for mental health is a list of coping strategies and people who can help. Safety plans are meant to help people safely through a crisis, such as when they feel suicidal, depressed, or overwhelmed.

How to Make a Safety Plan:

  • Think of times the plan would be used, such as after recognizing certain triggers or warning signs.
  • Create a list of things that bring happiness or comfort.
  • Make a list of things or people that make life worth living.
  • Compile a list of people, complete with their contact information, who would be helpful to talk to during a time of crisis.
  • Include numbers for national hotlines, local crisis numbers, or other ways to reach professional help.
  • Plan how to make an environment safe during a crisis.
    An example of a safety plan can be found here. Consider sitting down with your children and helping them make their own safety plan.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Suicidal thoughts can affects anyone. The stigma surrounding suicide can make it difficult for people who are struggling to speak up. This month especially is a time to raise awareness and help people find the resources they need. Here are a few ideas on what you can do to participate:

About the Author

Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall is a former high school principal and associate superintendent with the Provo City School District. He has been involved with suicide prevention for the past thirty years. He is nationally sought after for his expertise in postvention.

Dr. Hudnall is the founder of Hope4Utah, a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. The school-based program, Hope Squad, has been responsible for over 5,000 students referred for help and over 1,000 hospitalized. The Hope Squad program is now in over 950 schools around the world.

For over fifteen years Dr. Hudnall has led a state-wide volunteer suicide crisis team that has responded to over fifty youth suicides.

Dr. Hudnall has presented at over 100 national and state conferences on suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. He also presents on bullying, connectedness, community collaboration, and school safety. Dr. Hudnall was invited to testify before the United States Surgeon General on suicide in Utah. He has presented to the U.S. Department of Health and at the national conferences of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Association of Suicidology. Dr. Hudnall was also invited to participate in a webinar on African Americans and suicide by the White House.

Under Greg’s direction, over 60,000 people nationwide have been trained in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. He has presented across the United States and to many countries around the world on suicide prevention, including to the Minister of Education for Madrid, Spain.

Dr. Hudnall is considered one of the leading experts in community and school-based suicide
prevention, intervention and postvention. He lives by the mantra, “while it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire community to save one.”

To learn more about Dr. Hudnall, youth suicide prevention and HopeSquad, go to:

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