Mental Health Services for our Youth

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I can still clearly remember the day that I met him. He was playing in the pretend kitchen with his mother. Children swirled around him laughing, but he did not look up. Something in the way that his mother gently knelt by him telegraphed her protective instincts. I recognized him right away. He was one of “my kids”.

Mental Health Sevices for our Youth

“My kids” are amazing. “My kids” are brilliant, creative and talented. “My kids” have special needs and I saw all of those qualities in the boy playing in the kitchen with his mother. I was so drawn to this child that I did something that I had never done before. I asked the preschool teacher to refer me to his mother so that I could work with him.

I had to make a deal with the teacher in order to be introduced. She asked me to take on a job for her that I did not want to do and in return, she would strongly suggest that his mother would hire me. The deal was worth it. I started working with the boy the next fall.

That was 14 years ago. The boy is grown now, a high school senior who towers over me. The gift that I received from working with him was a glimpse into the life of someone who has anxiety. Someone who is prone to depression. Someone who needs to be constantly vigilant or when he slips into his sadness he may not be able to crawl back out. The gift of hope, perseverance and strength in the face of adversity.

Since the day that I met that boy, I have met so many more children who struggle with mental illness. More and more of my clients show aspects of anxiety and depression. More and more of our community is also showing signs of stress, battles with depression and anxiety. Our local high school has had at least 12 students commit suicide over the past decade. People have many theories about why there seems to be a rise in depression and anxiety in children and teens. One theory is that The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders are related. Whatever the reason, we are experiencing an increase in mental illness affecting our youth.

We live a community rich with resources and yet we do not have enough mental health services to serve our youth. Our local children’s hospital is world-renowned and yet they farm out teens who need hospitalization for psychiatric treatment to hospitals in another county. Free and anonymous services for children and adolescents are hard to find. My young friend drives an hour to go to an adolescent bipolar support group.

The lack of resources for adolescent mental health in a region that is home to some of the best research and medical services baffles me. I wonder if this lack of services is directly related to the stigma that still hangs over people with mental disorders. At one school meeting about the last student who had taken their life, the word suicide was never mentioned. It was referred to as “the recent event”. At that meeting, my young friend met a woman who was worried about her daughter. Her daughter had not left her room for a month. The mother was embarrassed and reluctant to tell her doctor about her daughter; perhaps it would affect how people looked at her daughter, her family.

As long as a stigma is perceived people will suffer in the shadows. As long as there is a stigma people will be silent about mental health. Do we need to wait until every family knows someone affected by mental illness before we take action? Do we need to wait until we lose more of our brilliant young people?

If you, or someone you know, struggles with mental health, get help, offer help, talk about the challenge out loud. We need to recognize mental health as just that: another area of our health.  We should treat mental illness with the same compassion and care that we treat any other chronic condition. There is no stigma in being ill.

Not only should there be no stigma, there is plenty of hope for our youth. There is so much that can be done to help. My young friend still has his struggles, but his daily life is rich. With the proper support and care, he can manage his mental health, much the same way as anyone with a chronic illness. There is hope as long as we don’t hide.

Hoping to lift the stigma on mental health and our youth

Resources and Information on Childhood and Adolescent Mental Health:

Mental Health Checklist

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Family Resources

Anxiety in Children

Effective Child Therapy

Happiness, Love, and Light; One woman’s perspective on depression and anxiety.

Iris the Dragon Helps Kids Cope with Mental Illness

Mandown: a moving short film about helping a friend with depression

Nation Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance of Mental Illness Resources

Parenting Strategies: Preventing Depression and Anxiety

Simple Ways to Reduce the Mental Illness Stigma

Soothing the Anxious Child

Teen Mental Health

Worry Wise Kids

ZeroSuicide Tool Kit

 

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Mental Health Services for our Youth

20 Comments


  1. What a wonderful article! I love your statement that “there is hope as long as we don’t hide.” So true!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and supporting the cause of lifting the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness.

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  2. WOW! What an important post! I lost my own father to suicide and almost lost a sister thought we got there in time. No one wants to talk about it but silence is where it grows. These resources are so valuable! Thank you for taking the time and spreading the word. You are likely saving lives here. Be blessed!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am so glad that you were able to help your sister in time. It is time to lift the stigma. If we can save one life then we will consider ourselves successful.

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  3. It must be so rewarding to work with young ones, to see such growth and results, physically and mentally. You should be proud of all the work you’ve done to break down the stigma!

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  4. Your words are so beautiful and strong. All children deserve the chance to be Loved like this and Live their live fully!!

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    1. Thank you! We also believe that by helping people with whatever chronic disorder they have, we will help all of society.

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  5. This was beautifully written and I admire you for advocating for health services. I do believe that lack of play and pressure have contributed to the suicide rate. I live in an area where there is extreme pressure in sports and academics. Thank you for this eye-opening post.

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  6. This was profoundly moving. I wish I had the words to convey how many dimensions of this struck a chord in me. I’ve known two people who have committed suicide. My paternal grandmother was severly bipolar and her bipolar had elements of psychosis (in my opinion, at least). I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I can’t pretend to know what needs to be done. But there seems to be a lot in need of doing. More funding, more resources, not using euphamisms when discussing what actually happened would be a few that would make sense. I was very fortunate to get treatement through my university and when I was pregnant was referred to both a perinatal psychiatrist and counsellor and saw them throughout both pregnancies and until one year postpartum after my second. All of that was covered by the government. But I’m unaware of what resources exist in my country for teens. There clearly is a long way to go in both the States and Canada though. Even breaking through the stigma would be progress. Thank you so much for such a beautiful post <3

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    1. You are so amazing, Alana. I am glad that you got the help that you needed. Whatever we are doing now, it is not enough. If we can talk about it perhaps that would be the first step.

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  7. Thank you for getting the message out there and shedding some light on this!

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  8. It must be tremendously rewarding to work with youth and see the amazing results! Good for you for working to break down the stigma!

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  9. Thank you for writing this. As a mother who was diagnosed recently with Bipolar Disorder, and is watching her young child go through many of the same things, I can not tell you how my heart jumps when I see people advocating for children’s mental health. My daughter has yet to be diagnosed (we are working on that currently) but whatever the outcome, she is special and we will get her whatever help she needs. People need to be aware that children battle with mental health, and that doesn’t make them “bad” either. Thanks so much for all you are doing 🙂

    Reply

    1. Thank you for being the best parent that you can for your daughter. The diagnosis is not as important as you recognizing that she needs love and support.

      Reply

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