What do the behaviors we see in our students mean? Part 1

In the continued celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, we would like to celebrate a very special day today — May 7, 2015 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day! And, we could think of no better way to celebrate than by introducing our first guest blogger — Evan Page, the School-Based Engagement Specialist at North Range Behavioral Health. This post is part one of a two-part series, so be sure to check in next Thursday to see part two. Thank you, Evan!

While negative behaviors may be concerning in and of themselves, it is important to remember that they are beacons, sending out pings of hidden distress. Tracking the signal backwards, behaviors we see are indicators of a hidden issue- a cause behind the symptoms. As community leaders and MHFA instructors, you have a fantastic view of behavior and, if you know what it translates to, you have a great head start toward deeper empathy for the people in your sphere of influence and you will be able to experience better self-care.

We are constantly communicating with ourselves, giving internal feedback for every action we take. The way we speak to ourselves is determined by how we view ourselves and the world. Different people will have different perceptions of the same situation as a result of how they take in and process information.

We can’t process all the information that happens in an event, so we subconsciously pick out bits and pieces that seem important and categorize them in our mind. What we select and categorize is heavily influenced by our past experiences and forms our beliefs.

The central belief about who we think we are (acceptable vs. unacceptable) is reflected in what we say in this inner dialogue. That dialogue then naturally flows out into our behaviors. Someone who constantly berates herself is going to act differently than the person who is happy and content with who she is.

Early life events — Beliefs — Inner dialogue — Behaviors

We all see life through a lens and no one has a crystal clear, unbiased picture of interactions in which we partake or events that we witness. We have smudges, cracks, and dust on the glass between us and the world as a result of our past. For a young man who has had traumatic experiences on the battlefield, a situation that may be harmless to others may send him into a flashback. The idea of the holidays arriving may bring up feelings of joy and excitement for some people, while dread and weariness fill others depending on the damage that has been done to their lens in past experiences, and the effectiveness of efforts to repair that damage.

So behaviors mean that something is going on beneath the surface– no surprise there. Having the knowledge of exactly what is going on is where you personally benefit.

(part two continued next week)

Evan Page has specialized in providing therapy for families and teens struggling with trauma, attachment disorder, and mood regulation issues. Evan is currently a therapist with North Range Behavioral Health, serving as the School-Based Engagement Specialist.


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