Updated: Apr 30, 2022
National Mental Health Awareness Month has a goal of fighting stigma, providing support, educating the public and helping to advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families. (Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness)
In what has been a traumatic year for many people, these goals are more important than ever. It is important for us, as parents, to normalize talking about mental health with each other, and with our kids. In my experience, the worst part of having a mental health disorder is the stigma in society against anyone that has mental health issues. When you are already struggling, and have people beating you up about what you must have done wrong to cause your own mental issues makes you want to keep quiet about them in the future.
One in five adults, and one in six teens struggle with mental illness in the United States.
As role models for our children, it is important for us to have an open door to allow our children to feel comfortable talking to us if they are struggling. In her freshman year of high school, one of my daughter's friends committed suicide. It wasn't anything that they had seen coming, and it was really hard for her and her other friends to cope with.
In the news, I have seen articles in the last year about children as young as 9 years old trying to commit suicide. This is indicative of a crisis on our hands with mental health in our young people.
To me, this highlights the critical importance of talking to our children about mental health even at a young age. I think a big part of that is being open to our children's feelings, as opposed to telling them how they "should" feel.
I grew up in an abusive household, so when I came home one day from school crying because my teacher had yelled at me, I told my dad that I was depressed. I remember him yelling at me over and over again, "What is your real problem?"
None of us wants to be that parent.
Clearly, how you talk to your kids in the midst of a crisis is vitally important. That's why we want talk talk to our kids about feelings regularly, in a non-confrontational way, so that they learn to be comfortable talking to us about anything. Kids naturally want to talk to their parents about everything, it is when we shut down about an issue that we make them stop.
I've written before about how to talk to your kids about feelings, starting at a young age. That's how we create an awareness about mental health in our kids.
It can be as simple as asking kids open-ended questions when you pick them up from school, starting with "How was your day?" Then if they tell you it was great, ask why it was great. If it was terrible, ask why it was terrible. Empathize with their feelings in either case. If something went badly, ask them what they think they could do or say differently next time to have a different result. When you get them thinking about their own feelings, and how to handle them, you are helping them to create emotional coping skills for when things do go badly wrong.
Empathy and openness are key for us as parents. The way we talk to our kids matters, but even more than that, the way we listen. The more we listen, the more kids feel that they can talk to us about anything. That's how we help kids learn to be emotionally aware individuals who are sensitive to their own mental health, and that of others.
For more information about Mental Health Awareness Month, you can visit:
If you are seeking services, The Recovery Village has treatment centers for Mental Health and Addiction Recovery in Florida, Colorado, Ohio, Washington and New Jersey:
To hear more about my own experiences with mental health, you can check out this video.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Be well my friends.
For more information on what I do for my mental health, check out these related blog posts:
For more on my story, check out the PTSD My Story Project!
If you have PTSD and Panic Attacks like I do, I have written an ebook to help in coping with panic attacks. It is now available in the shop.
Is there anything else that you would like me to talk about with regard to my mental health journey? Anything you would like to share about yours? Let me know in the comments!