Why I talk about my teen’s struggle with depression
I didn’t always talk about my teen’s struggle with depression. For a long time, I thought, it isn’t my story to tell. I worried that my talking about would make things worse. That my words might be fatal.
Thankfully, my daughter is doing better these days, but the system is not. Waitlists are growing. Hospitalizations are increasing. Suicide remains the second leading cause of death for young people in Canada.
Here are 10 more reasons why I decided to talk openly about my teen’s mental health
- Before I had the wherewithal to ask for help for myself or to seek out other parents going through similar experiences, I found this article by Michigan Mom. It saved me somehow, just knowing I wasn’t alone in this. Support groups are great, but we also need more of these stories out in the open for anyone to find.
- Every time I have talked to someone about my daughter’s struggle with depression, they have responded with sympathy and kindness. What’s more, most of them have told me about a child, niece, nephew, parent, step-parent who has also struggled with depression.
- Talking about it helps me articulate my thoughts and feelings. It makes them less scary. It also helps me to build a vocabulary for very complex, often abstract emotions. The more I do it, the easier it is.
- If my kids had a physical illness or a food allergy, I wouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. I like to think I stayed silent to protect my child, but I think, in part at least, I stayed silent because of stigma. That didn’t make me feel very good.
- I believe we have a better shot of finding better solutions and support for teenage depression, and families and school systems, if parents who live with depressed teens, are part of the conversation.
- I have information worth sharing. Getting help for your child is a bit like learning to play a video game. You have no idea what’s coming or where the pitfalls are. It helps to have someone who’s made it to the next level show you the ropes.
- I need other parents who have more time and energy to understand what I’m going through, because I need their help. I need their understanding and for them to educate their own kids about youth mental illness. But how can I expect anyone to understand what I need or what my daughter’s needs if I don’t take the time to explain it to them.
- The squeaky wheel gets the grease. In January 2020, Children’s Mental Health Ontario reported the number of kids on waitlists for mental health services in Ontario more than doubled in two years to 28,000. We can ask our kids to speak up, or rely on non-profits or over-stretched service providers to make noise, or we can lend our voices to the cause. There is strength in numbers.
- There’s no shame in any of this. Depression is an illness. It’s not my fault. It’s not my kid’s fault.
- I don’t want to have to lose one of my kids, or anyone else’s, before I speak up and say, it’s not right. We can do better. Our kids deserve better.
I get that not everyone will agree with me. I also get it if you say, this isn’t right time for me or my child. To each his own.
But if you’re in the arena getting your butt kicked, as Brené Brown would say, I’d love your thoughts on this. What holds you back from sharing your story?
- The Globe and Mail: My daughter’s mental health crisis is forcing me to speak up
- Blog post: An open letter to Bell Let’s Talk about mental illness