Unfortunately, mental illness still carries a big stigma. I recently was discussing some of my kids’ problems that result from mental illness when separately I had two family members tell me that is was not appropriate to share that with others. Why? If my kids had something happen due to Diabetes or asthma, would I still be told it was inappropriate to share? Mental illness and medical illness are not that different. Both can have external causes and both can have biological causes.
I have anxiety. I have been on medication for anxiety since I was twenty. I have seen therapists from time to time when needed due to the anxiety. I know that my brain does not make the correct chemicals and therefore I need medication. I also know there are coping skills that I utilize to help decrease symptoms. The medication and the coping skills work together so that I can be successful.
My kids are young (my oldest is ten). We are still working with mental health professionals to figure out what works best for them. And I’m not ashamed of this. I am embarrassed at times due to some of their behaviors, but who cannot say that about their kids. Heck, I’m embarrassed sometimes by my behavior. No one is perfect.
I hope that we all start talking more about mental illness. According to NAMI, one in five children either have or have had a seriously debilitating mental illness (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-disorder-among-children.shtml). That’s 20%! So in your kid’s school classroom, probably three to five kids will be affected. It sucks (but so do medical illnesses) but that doesn’t mean we should not talk about it. That only makes it worse. Instead, let’s start having open dialogue, not place blame, and offer support.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.