By Haley Quinn
As children, we rely on others to help us learn about the world around us. We also rely on others to help us make sense of our internal world — and more specifically, our mental health.
But all too often, mental health is overlooked by caregivers for a variety of reasons. Maybe mental health wasn’t talked about when they were growing up. Maybe they don’t have the experience or the resources to effectively talk about mental illness. Or maybe they feel uncomfortable discussing a topic that is often surrounded by stigma and shame.As children, we rely on others to help us learn about the world around us. We also rely on others to help us make sense of our internal world — and more specifically, our mental health.
That is why we asked our Mighty mental health community what things they wish they were told about mental health as a kid. Because by opening up the dialogue about mental health and mental illness at a young age, children can feel more comfortable speaking up when they’re struggling, we can get them the help they need as soon as they need it and help them feel less alone.
Here’s what our community had to say:
1. “How important it was. That it was OK to choose my own health over other people’s wants. Maybe if I would have found out earlier, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now.” — Sabrae M.
2. “It is OK to talk about and get help for being depressed and anxious. My understanding of mental health issues growing up was that it wasn’t OK to be struggling with issues and you needed to keep them quiet. I also wish I was taught things about mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness (from dialectical behavior therapy) as a child, because these skills would’ve been incredibly helpful to have at a younger age.” — Rachael T.
3. “It’s OK to be sad and angry. The feelings shouldn’t be suppressed or capped, but felt and expressed in healthy and not destructive [ways]. And that it’s OK to cry, just as it is OK to not cry. I’m liking that more and more I’m finding people are being told it’s OK to cry, but nothing’s said about those who don’t emote through tears and are left to feel like emotionless robots if they don’t cry even after something tragic.” — Noel C.
4. “I didn’t know I was important. I didn’t realize I was valuable.” — Amber J.
5. “It is OK and ‘natural’ to experience negative emotions. Rather than push them away, shame them and minimize the experiences, you can acknowledge them and learn to handle them.” — Kellyann N.
6. “That something like this even exists. Looking back, I now realize I have had problems since I was a teenager, but I truly didn’t know those were mental health-related issues. I didn’t understand it until I was in my 20s and finally got help now when I am in my 30s.” — Shu J.
7. “No matter how alone you may feel, there are other people that have been there too, things get better and you won’t always feel this way.” — Katie N.
8. “That life is not made up of only pain. And life is much more and it’s something not to be scared or ashamed of.” — Kavya R.
9. “Every person has a different struggle and we are not the illness we wrestle with every day and it does not define us!” — Amber B.
10. “That I shouldn’t be afraid of it.” — Julia J.
11. “No matter how alone you may feel, there are other people that have been there too, things get better and you won’t always feel this way.” — Katie N.
12. “There’s no shame in having a mental illness. Talk to someone anyone to get help.” — Marsha D.
13. “That being happy was more important than being successful. That whatever career path I found myself in, the most important thing was to be happy and take pride in what I do. Also, that mental health issues weren’t my fault. That sometimes our brains are just different and that doesn’t make us bad people.” — Abbey P.
14. “It’s OK to take care of myself first, instead of taking care of others first and forgetting that I matter just as much as everyone around me.” — Tatauq M.
15. “For me, it’s something I wish I wasn’t told as much. I heard ‘it gets better’ so much and it made me incredibly bitter with age. With every milestone, I kept thinking things would get better in my life then dealt with extreme disappointment of those saying ‘it gets better’ moving the goalposts as to when it supposedly gets better — when I got on meds, when I got treatment, when I got out of public school and away from bullies, when I graduated high school, graduated college. Every time I heard that damn refrain and every time I felt so disappointed and like I must be broken because it didn’t happen for me.” — Amanda P.
16. “It can affect anyone! I was told I would never have to deal with it because I had a ‘good life’ and am now seeking therapy for several different mental illnesses that had a major impact on my day-to-day life.” — Sage L.
17. “‘It’s not all in your head.’ Those words would have done wonders for my mentality growing up. Just some kind of validation that it wasn’t my fault would have made a difference.” — Courtney L.
18. “The numbers. If I’d have known that at the time there were billions of people alive that had, have had, or would have a mental illness, that would have done a lot more for me than: ‘You’re not the only one to get depressed, you know.’” — Sandy M.
19. “That it doesn’t make you a bad person. It comes in waves and seasons. You can be OK for awhile and then not all that OK. You’re allowed to feel the way you do and just because you have good things in life it doesn’t invalidate your experience. And that you should not feel ashamed.” — Shelbie S.
20. “That it’s completely OK to talk to people. Don’t ball it up or keep your thoughts to yourself. Open up, because there could be someone that needs to open up too.” — Samantha K.
21. “That you could detect depression in young kids and that I wasn’t ‘overly emotional’ because I cried all the time for no reason.” — Bridget C.
This story originally appeared on The Mighty. You can view it here.
Getty image via Archv