Hey moms, I have a favour to ask you. Yes, I know, you are overwhelmed and under-appreciated. I know you don’t want to even imagine taking on another responsibility, but this one is important. I’m asking you today to do one thing that just might change the world – I want you to talk to your children openly, honestly, and regularly about their mental health.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “a staggering 3.2 million youth aged 12-19 years of age are at risk for developing depression”. 3.2. MILLION! The good news, however, is that “once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected” (ibid). That means that if this message reaches even 10% of the families of susceptible youth (320, 000) and the family seeks help, we can create a meaningful difference for over 250,000 youth. I know that is a bit of math, but the point is, we have an opportunity to change the world, simply by talking to our children.
My daughter is currently 2 ½ years old and while I haven’t delved completely into the topic of mental health just yet, I do actively discuss her emotions with her. This is a great first step in teaching our children to recognize how they are feeling and to notice when they experience a sudden change in those feelings. By laying this groundwork now, I am creating an environment in which, as she ages, she does not need to be told that she can discuss her emotions openly, she simply knows she can.
“But she is only 2!”
I know, all of you amazing women out there who have already raised children through adolescence are rolling your eyes at me and would love for me to write another post when she is 14. And I hear you, I do! But we are at a significant crossroad in the world of mental health right now, and we need to take advantage of it! Now, more than ever, there is research and information being provided to help us navigate the unruly world of mental illness and frankly, we would be fools not to take that information and run. I truly believe that we have the opportunity to completely flip the script of adolescent-parent relationships, and it starts with communication. Luckily for us, discussing mental health is quickly becoming a very “cool” thing to do, and we have to seize this opportunity. So, get out the reading glasses, ladies, and educate yourselves on the signs and symptoms of mental health, discuss them pre-emptively with your young children, and watch for them in your adolescents. Do not be hasty in assuming that mood swings and slammed doors are simply a delightful part of puberty – it may be something much more serious than that.
At the end of the day, each family is entirely unique, and will approach mental illness in its own way. However you decide to approach it, all I ask is that you do not ignore it. We have the power to change the world, we just have to talk to our kids.
About Stephanie Brash
I live in Hamilton, Ontario and have a brilliant, beautiful daughter named Skylar. I am in the unique circumstance of having multiple quasi-diagnoses, and while they do bring about many difficulties, I have an amazing support system and am proud to be able to share my story and struggles with those who can use them!