Episode 36 - Mental Health, Self-care & Back-to-School w/ Dave Anderson, PhD

Episode Summary

Dr. Dave Anderson, leading expert in child and adolescent mental health at Child Mind Institute, joins the READ Podcast for a timely and vital conversation about wellness and mental health in the wake of the pandemic. Dr. Anderson addresses the current mental health crisis and discusses its disparate impacts that could last for decades. He provides both solace and actionable strategies for children and adults to build habits of wellness and offers expert guidance on how families and schools support children and communities during these challenging times. Host Danielle Scorrano calls this conversation “therapy by podcast,” as Dr. Anderson’s insights benefit children, adolescents, and adults in life’s work toward overall wellness and self-care.

Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.”

1. Addressing the disparate impact of the pandemic.
Episode bookmark: Listen to 14:50 – 17:58 to learn more.

“I think more than anything, [the pandemic has shown] that change is the constant."

The pandemic has had far-reaching and disparate impacts on individuals and communities with the effects lasting decades.

"It comes back to the elevated role that mental health and wellness are playing in our lives in the wake of the pandemic and figuring out how we consciously reconstruct our communities around that."

2. Acknowledging that not all screen time is created equal
Episode bookmark: Listen to 19:00 – 22:19 to learn more about social media and mental health. Listen to 23:00 – 24:00 about insights on integrating the digital life world with life off screen.

During the pandemic, social media brought about connections and methods of belonging for teens, especially for marginalized and disenfranchised groups.  However, research has shown that the way social media is constructed can curate a life that is not reality, and as a result, it can detrimentally impact child and adolescent mental health.

"Our caution to caregivers is, instead of roundly rejecting the digital social world their kids are in, realize this is now completely integrated with our children’s social experiences."

Adults should actively expand beyond teaching children to critically evaluate the credibility of sources (i.e. the who or what of information) to also discerning how children are receiving information online from a variety of sources (including credible sources). 

"We need to tell kids, everyone is going to fight for your eyeballs to be your provider of news. They want to make sure their push notifications are the ones that you elect to pop up on your phone screen. You have to decide how often you want to be pushed."

3. Self-care strategies for adults
Episode bookmark: Listen to 29:21 – 33:46 to learn more.

"Self-care is for someone to maintain their basic wellness so they can be available for their children, job, or partner in a way that they want to be. But all too often, the way that people might demonize a term like self-care is an overindulgent kind of thing."

A framework for self-care and promotive well-being:

  • Foundational habits of wellness: healthy amounts of sleep, nutrition, hydration, movement

"As many fancy tricks as mental health professionals have, basic habits of wellness are the foundation."

  •  Thoughts, behaviors, and emotions: strategies to modify thoughts, engagement in activities to boost mood and decrease stress, and integration of mindfulness to be more present amidst daily stresses

"[Self-compassion involves] setting small goals, working on them over time, and tinkering with them, and realizing there are going to be points in our life when you just completely fail at your own wellness."

  • Self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism and recognizing our common humanity, building in more kindness toward ourselves

"Wellness is life’s work."

4. Supporting our children in their wellness journeys
Episode bookmark: Listen to 36:09 – 39:11 to learn more.

Caring relationships filled with compassion and empathy are the cornerstone to supporting children in their wellness journeys.

"Relationships are the only facilitators of change amongst humans. You don’t necessarily get a human to change, unless there’s some kind of bedrock of relationship… The best facilitator is a relationship that starts from a base of appreciation."

5. Managing back-to-school anxiety
Episode bookmark: Listen to 41:15 – 43:15 to learn more.

Dr. Anderson’s advice for back-to-school anxiety: high levels of self-compassion and empathy for others

"In terms of advice for the new school year, it’s being gentle with yourself because there’s so much pressure, especially now that we are in a post vaccine era… to feel like we are getting back to what school felt like pre-pandemic and the reality is there’s still a lot to deal with."

Dr. Anderson’s framework for caring communities includes the following:

1. Implementing mental health support across all tiers of the community and not assuming that the summer went incredibly well for everyone

2. Promoting habits of wellness across all adults and students across the school

3. Building intentional supports for most vulnerable population of students including children diagnosed with mental health and learning disorders and ensuring access to mitigate fear of stigma


Learn more from Child Mind Institute

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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.

About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.

Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests and does not constitute an endorsement by The Windward Institute or The Windward School.