My Mom’s Gift Saved My Life
My Mom’s Gift Likely Saved My Life
Mental Health America reports only 25% of youth today are treated on a consistent basis for a diagnosable mental illness. There are several factors contributing to this ridiculously low number.
1. Society’s ongoing stigma around mental health makes it more difficult, even for those who are brave enough, to talk about their challenges.
2. Kids inaccurately blame themselves for how they feel, and because of the stigma, they may feel shameful about sharing it with an adult.
3. Some communities don’t have access to adequate mental health support.
4. Parents are in denial that their child’s anxiety, depression, or mood swings are something that needs treatment and may have an incorrect view that it’s something their child needs to “get over.”
Today, on Mother’s Day, I want to address number four.
Parents, PLEASE, listen to your kids and get curious about the health of their minds! Better yet, please initiate a conversation with them about what kind of headspace they’re in. It’s our responsibility to understand there’s a very real possibility that our children will experience bouts of emotional distress during their youth, teens, and young adulthood. Some challenges may be short lived, and some may follow them on into adulthood.
And, if you dealt with any of these debilitating afflictions as a young person or in adulthood, as I have, there’s an even higher likelihood your kids will too. A 2018 research paper published in Frontiers of Psychiatry reports that children born from parents with depressive disorders are two or three times as likely to experience them as well.
It makes perfectly logical sense when you think about it. Scientifically, they know when we go through trauma or illness, it leaves an imprint on our DNA. Mix your DNA with your partner’s, grow a baby in your womb for nine months incubating in liquid derived from every cell in your body (not to mention the DNA and potential trauma passed down from generations before you), and then voilà—you have a mini-me.
Not only does your child look like you, but it’s highly likely you will also recognize personality traits with a dumbfounding resemblance . . . including those you may wish you didn’t possess.
Even those of us who proactively care for our mental wellness—going to great lengths to heal our past and conceal any unhealthy version of ourselves from our children—will still probably witness uncanny moments of déjà vu with our kids. I know I do.
In recent months, the evening news has been peppered with fresh statistics on the frightening rise of reported teenage anxiety and depression. As parents, I think we must turn toward this scary reality and open the conversation.
Jenni Gritters, writer featured in mindbodygreen.com, offers three research-based suggestions to help our kids if they need it.
1. Find professional help for your child.
2. Trade in some screen time for personal interaction and human connection.
3. Make sure they are getting enough rest. The fastest way to improve the odds of that is to collect all phones at a certain time each night and dock them in a pre-determined spot until morning.
What do you stand to lose if you don’t? God forbid any of us should ever endure the unthinkable hell of losing a child to suicide, but if we did, we will know in good conscience we proactively discussed the importance of having a healthy mind.
Letting them know we hold no judgement and there is no shame in talking with someone or seeking medical assistance, is likely one of the most loving and potentially lifesaving gifts we can give. This is the type of conversation that needs revisiting again and again. It’s the consistency of the message that helps build trust and communicates that we’re here to love and support; not judge.
I endured the tragic loss of my mom to suicide when I was eighteen years old. What’s ironic is that it was my mom who put me into counseling as a twelve-year old because of family trauma I endured. While she lost the will to fight the good fight for her own life, I have no doubt she saved mine.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I wish you could be here today to witness the outcome of your sharing your greatest gifts with me and my determination to live with as healthy a mind as possible. God willing, the seeds you planted with me will live on to bloom in the lives of countless others. May we all have the great fortune of “living our gifts” and watching our children do the same.