Getting Comfortable with Conversations about Mental Health

“A silent epidemic.” “The great unspoken health issue of our time.” “An invisible illness.” “A hidden crisis.” From the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerald to New York Times Magazine, the issue of mental health and its impact on human lives is getting lots of attention – and it’s well deserved.

A mental illness is defined as a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder and can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate and even severe impairment. In 2016, there were an estimated 44.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. with a mental illness, and up to one in five children living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health concern in any given year. Yet, nearly 80 percent of the children who need services won’t get them. Why?

That has to stop.

When not feeling well physically, we don’t delay our need for medical treatment or advice. So when we are not feeling well emotionally, or our children may not be feeling their emotional best, why is the decision to seek assistance less than expeditious?

It was over a casual lunch recently that a colleague of mine shared a story of her teenaged son who was having a difficult time managing anxiety related to school. He has friends and gets good grades, but he wouldn’t even have to look at the clock to know it was Sunday evening and he’d be going to school in the morning. Anxiety was keeping him from feeling right. It got to the point where my colleague and her spouse realized it was time to seek help from of a professional. The problem was not “just going away.”

Her son immediately objected. Why? He was worried that other people would think he was weak if they found out he was seeing a therapist. He didn’t want to believe that asking for help is actually a sign of strength. It took some parental persuasion, but he agreed to talk with a therapist – an objective professional who isn’t a family member – and it helped right away. The young man learned more about what he was feeling and why, which has made him more confident and at ease. The impact of working with a therapist has been a game-changer for her son.

So how do we collectively build a supportive community where young people feel comfortable having open and honest conversations about their emotional well being? In times of crisis, many turn to trusted adults in their communities, perhaps a teacher or a relative, before they turn to mental health professionals. When trusted adults and caregivers are equipped with the right information they make it easier to seek and find help. There are things we all can do.
Educate ourselves, our communities. Invite local mental health experts – CHD will happily visit – to speak at a school group, a parent meeting, your congregation or any community gathering.


Shared from Guest Viewpoint on Masslive:

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