Mental health expert to parents: Never too early to talk about dangers of drugs

Teen mental health expert explains how to talk to your child about the dangers of using drugs.
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 5:58 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - One mental health expert says it’s never too early to start a conversation about the deadly consequences of fake pills laced with fentanyl.

For three years, Chris McKinney, a behavioral health liaison at Maize High School, has been listening to the struggles of maize high school students.

McKinney says, “students love to talk, and if you ask them questions and give them space, and they feel they’re in a safe place to do it, they’ll talk.”

McKinney surveyed 20 students on how readily available they could get drugs with their phones. Only three didn’t have easy access.

“That number was shocking to us. We were super appreciative of their honesty, but that does tell you how available this substance is to people,” said McKinney.

He encourages parents to have an inviting conversation about the dangers of drugs. This trained social worker says it starts with building a relationship.

McKinney says, “your initial conversation shouldn’t be just about drugs. It should be more about what does your day look like? what do you have planned with your friends?”

He says you can take the conversation to the next level when the conversation progresses and your teen opens up. Teens tell Mckinney their greatest concern is the fear of consequences.

“When we say non-judgemental listening, that comes down to asking the question and not jumping to the next question right away but let them talk about it and being open to what they discuss,” says McKinney. “We’re not trying to tell parents how to parent. We’re just trying to help them improve that relationship with their child. and that’s s all about awareness and safety.”

He reminds parents and teens the consequence of a fentanyl-laced pill can be deadly and encourages parents to create a safe place for their teens to speak openly.

He says parents should respect their privacy while also creating a trusting relationship so their teen can come to you, and as a reminder, self-medication may be a cry for help. McKinney says to reach out to your student’s school.

Many have counselors, mental health liaisons, and school resource officers who can also help.

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