A friend posted something from Antrim Counselling regarding the rather harsh mental health issues many of today's children face. For instance:
• 1 in 5 children have mental health problems
• A 43% increase in ADHD has been noted
• A 37% increase in adolescent depression has been noted
• A 200% increase in the suicide rate in children aged 10 to 14
These stats are for the UK, but I imagine they are about as bleak for kids here in the US.
I was reading the other day that it is likely that everyone will face one mental health challenge in their life - grief, depression, a learning disability, coping with stress and anxiety. We all face physical challenges and when we do, we know exactly what to do, and we do not feel any shame in seeking help. We don't hide the fact that we went to see the doctor or went to the ER with alarming symptoms.
But when we can't sleep for the third night in a row or we cry every night when we get home from work and we aren't really sure why, we don't talk about it. In fact, we hide it. We brush off a spouse's suggestion that we talk to the doctor. We are FINE, just FINE. We soldier on. There is nothing wrong with us. Our body isn't hurting, so we must be FINE, right?
No wonder our kids are hurting. If we can't take good care of ourselves, how can we ever take care of them? And this lack of care is killing them - a 200% increase in youth suicides.
What to do? I'm no expert, except when it comes to me. I know what has helped me. Talking about my mental health helps me. I see a therapist weekly. That is key. (No, I'm not saying everyone needs weekly therapy. But you might, for awhile.) But I also talk about it with others, just as I might my physical health. "My depression is better, but sleep is still a struggle" or "My anxiety has been getting better but I still have a hard time when...." It's the same as if someone might say, "My knee is still acting up" or "I twisted my ankle last week but the brace the doctor gave me helped." It's just matter-of-fact.
Your kids are listening. They hear the words you use, the tone of voice. They hear shame if it's there. They hear progress or frustration. They hear priority or dismissal. They know whether or not it is safe to share their own concerns with you. They know that using a professional to talk to is an option in for your family.
That's the place to start. Talk. Watch your words but be honest. And it doesn't need to be your own kids, you know. Any kid you love needs this. Any kid in your life needs the adults in their life to show them that mental health is just as important as physical health. Talk and keep talking.