Acknowledging Children’s Mental Health

We shouldn’t need a single month to raise awareness for mental health and illness, but we have May. The first week of May focuses on the mental health of children, with May 7th being the official “Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.” The mental health of children has always been important to me. I worked twelve years in general pediatrics and a couple years with a pediatrician who specialized in mental illness in children. My mental issues developed as a child, my earliest recollection being in the second grade. No one could explain the stomach aches I was having (and no one took me to the doctor for that matter.) I would sit in the back of the classroom by the sink, crying and worried I would throw up in front of everyone. There was even a parent teacher meeting, but I was left to suffer. On another note, my younger sister also struggled significantly, recieving a diagnosis of ADHD as a kid and pumped with stimulants that more than likely aggitated the deeper problem, which today we now know is Bipolar.

We all know how difficult it can be to receive mental health treatment, but care and access for children is even more difficult. In fact, only an estimated SEVEN percent of children have a diagnosis. Many parents (like my own) are in denial that there may be an underlying factor. Many children are referred for psychiatric care but never have follow up. I’d like to use this post to write a letter to myself as a child and all children suffering.

Dear You,

Not feeling so good lately, are you? Unsure of your emotions and what’s transpiring inside you?  I promise this feeling won’t last forever. TELL SOMEONE how you feel. I know it’s confusing. Your mom and dad should listen. Don’t lie to the school counselor. She’s there to help you. Don’t think about grown up things. Be a kid. If this note finds you in despair, I hope it helps. Sometimes you’ll have great days and others might be really bad, but don’t stop learning and playing. Don’t live in shame. It is NORMAL to feel sad and for some of us, we get really sad, but we’re still here.

Your struggles are what make you special, but you don’t have to struggle alone.

Love,
Me

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