Let's Get Uncomfortable and Chat About Mental Health

by Jen Reichert

When I was growing up, we didn’t talk about mental health. It wasn’t something anyone discussed even when it began to affect my family. Nobody really ever explained the regular appointments with the psychiatrist, the medications, or that one stint in the treatment center.

I don’t fault anyone. Now that I’m older, I understand everyone was doing what they knew to do. Back then, mental health was a personal matter to be kept private from judging eyes and ears, and staying quiet about it was the best way to protect everyone from heartache and worry.

To an extent, that’s still true today. Although mental health continues to be deeply personal and should be respected as such, opening up about it still causes people to react in unsympathetic ways from shuttering to criticizing to changing the subject altogether.

Luckily, many attitudes about mental health are improving, and from where I stand over here heading up programs that spend lots of time on the topic of mental health help, the conversations are healthier and happening more often.

Since May 7 is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, let’s have a stop-n-chat, shall we?

Did you know one in every 4 or 5 youth meets criteria for a lifetime mental disorder?

Did you know the risk of mental illness increases for children from low-income families and those who’ve been in foster care or involved with the juvenile justice system?

Did you know the discrimination that comes with mental illness is a barrier to recovery and the main reason people don’t seek help?

As advocates for children who’ve survived abuse and neglect and cope with the damaging effects, it’s our responsibility at Foster Village to help erase the stigma associated with mental health and receiving services.


Strategies to Help Us Tackle the Topic of Mental Health

So, in the spirit of improvement, I’ve listed a few strategies to help us tackle the once-taboo topic of mental health...

Reaching out for help is a strength, not a weakness.

That’s a tough pill to swallow for our independent, DIY natures, but I believe it — especially when it comes to mental health and especially when struggles often begin during childhood.

Knowing the facts can encourage fair judgements instead of wrong assumptions.

It’s better to learn something new than to assume we already know…because we probably don’t. Our society and upbringings aren’t always the most accurate resources.

Empathy goes a long way.

Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes has a way of changing our perspective, doesn’t it? Hopefully, it will give us grace for ourselves and others, and maybe even make us a more patient people.

Open and honest conversations are necessary.

We usually tell someone when we visit the doctor, but keep our visits to therapists and psychiatrists under lock and key. Sharing our struggles and how we’re coping makes us feel vulnerable. I know there aren’t many of us who love that, but vulnerability is courageous and needed.

This Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, take some time to think about these strategies and see where you land. Together, we can grow our understanding, obliterate the stigma, find treatment and support, and make a real difference.