It's Bell Let's Talk Day in Canada, and it's a great opportunity to get the conversation going about children's mental illness. As parents, we're so very hesitant to share with people that our children have mental health problems. But why is that?
For one thing, we're afraid that they won't understand. Fair enough, they might not. But how is not talking about it going to help change that?
Secondly, we're afraid people might judge us or our children. Another good point. But let's be honest here -- children with mental illnesses that manifest outwardly in bad behaviour simply look like brats to the outside world and we, their parents, look lazy and negligent. Ergo, we're already being judged. So once again, how is not talking about it going to help?
Third, the term "mental illness" is pretty damn scary. It calls to mind the mental institutions of old and images of sociopaths and other people society says we should be afraid of. But are those images accurate, or are we buying into the very stigma we need to fight?
The fact remains that 1 in 5 children will suffer from a mental illness at some point, and not talking about it isn't going to make it go away. What it will do, however, is continue to alienate them and the people who love them.
Ask yourself this. If 1 in 5 children has a mental illness, why do so many parents feel alone? Answer? Because nobody talks about it.
So here's what I'm proposing. What if rather than hiding from it, we talked about it? What if rather than being embarrassed about it, we educated people about it? What if rather than complaining about it, we did something about it?
As scary as it can be, I don’t think we’re going to change the perception of mental illness unless we embrace it.
Who's with me?
Note: This is a slightly revised version of a post I put up last year.