There May Be Hope After All

I’ve seen a lot of young kids do extremely dumb things. Remember my rant about Logan Paul and the suicide forest in Japan? If you don’t, Logan Paul’s Mistake  may be a good reminder.

Lots of us hear things all the time about the generation that our kids are growing up in and I’ve thought a lot about this, maybe because my kids are teens. Maybe I just think a lot in general? Who knows.

Lily and I talk on our way to her OT appointments every week, it’s a 15 minute drive, so this is a time for us to chat alone. Today she and I were talking about trying to get her friends’ numbers on her new tablet. It turns out that she had just gotten numbers for two of her friends, who have mental health issues. She told me that she had been worried about them because she hadn’t heard from either lately.

“Mom, I don’t want to lose another friend to suicide.”

Lily will be 13 in February.

No teen, or child in general, should have to deal with that kind of loss, but earlier in the year, one of Lily’s friends completed suicide. She took it hard but has been able to move forward.

This hurts my heart. Throughout my life, I’ve lost an uncle, my dad is an attempt survivor and I’ve lost a handful of friends to suicide. Many of my closest friends have had suicidal thoughts. The suicide loss that impacted me the most, of course, is Jake. My dad’s attempt is a close second because 10-year-old me found him. I’ve been able to process both and move forward, but I’m never going to be the same.

I told her that her friends are lucky to have such a caring friend, because she has a huge heart. She loves to help people, so I can see her going into that area of work. It shows that she actually has been paying attention all these years while I’ve worked tirelessly in the mental health field and gotten involved with the AFSP. But yet, my heart hurts for her.

We become engaged in a passion sometimes when things happen to us that are completely out of our control. For example, several of the kids that unfortunately were victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have gone on to become activists. Cameron Kasky has an amazing Twitter, if you’re on there. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them gets into political office.

I’ve been passionate about mental health and suicide prevention for years, but after losing Jake, I felt like I needed to do something. I speak up more than I used to, became and AFSP volunteer and started this blog. I’ve always said that if my writing helps even one person, then I have accomplished my mission- to educate and hopefully, someone thinks again.

I just wish that Lily didn’t feel the need to worry so much about her friends. That just isn’t the world we live in. If more kids band together and take care of each other, I think they may do well in the future. I see articles all the time about kids who organize food and clothing drives because they want to help other kids. There’s kids who are out there trying to save the planet, literally. I think it’s fantastic. All we can really do as parents is encourage them to do what makes them happy and generally good people.

I guess this is a sign that I must be doing something “right” with at least one kid. It’s hard to see this sometimes and I wonder everyday about this. Clearly, parenting is full of surprises. This is a good one.

Men and Mental Health

As kids, most boys were told not to cry. They were told to be tough, to be “real men”, and those men didn’t cry and show emotions. They hid their feelings, no matter the cost.

This piece of advice has had terrible consequences, leading to high substance abuse rates, violence against women and children (among others) and other issues. When you can’t let out your feelings in a healthy way, it tends to come out badly. It also leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety and lack of self-care.

Why Men Don’t Seek Help

Everyone needs to take care of themselves, physically and mentally. This is a well-known fact. Men have a harder time acknowledging this because of the stigma they face in doing so. This will be covered in a later post, so stay tuned, but here are a few examples of what many men fear when going for help:

  • Being labeled as “weak”, “sick”, or any number of labels.
  • Having to be vulnerable. I can say from personal experience that starting therapy is rough. You are opening up with some of your worst demons to someone you just met..many men (and women) are not having it.
  • Being judged by those who know that they are getting help.

This information is in The Stigma of Mental Illness

Untreated mental illness can also lead to suicide, which has a higher rate in men, and men usually use more lethal means.

This fact breaks my heart each time I read it. Suicide in itself is heartbreaking and has far-reaching consequences.

As a mom, I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to cry. My sons know it’s okay to have emotions. In light of numerous teen suicides in the news and those that I have lost to suicide personally, I feel a huge responsibility to watch out for my kids’ mental health. It’s HARD to be a kid these days.

Cameron started taking daily naps when he started middle school, and at first, I thought it was a phase. Then I worried about his heart because his SVT is pretty severe and can tire him out easily.

He told me that he felt fine, that school was just tiring him out. My next question was if anything was bothering him, and thankfully, he said no. Cameron is a pretty chill kid, but you never know.

Julian is pretty quiet, but he knows where Mom is if he needs to talk. So does Lily, but she is NOT the quiet type. The point of this is, please talk to your kids, no matter how rough it may be. Just check in.

What can we do for the men in our lives?

  • Check in with them. Especially if something major has happened to them recently- a death in the family, job loss, etc.
  • Be gentle. Most men facing a mental health issue don’t want to be forced into talking. Matthew’s parents divorced a few years ago, and there was a lot of drama involved. He’s not a huge talker, so I had to let him talk about it at his own pace.
  • Encourage him through whatever he does, if anything. If he decides to seek help, he needs to know you’re behind him 100%.

Of course, if things are going downhill quickly, please seek immediate help. You can go to the nearest ER or call 911.
Resources:

AFSP

Psychology Today

NAMI

If you are more comfortable seeking help online, this BetterHelp link will be helpful for Michigan residents, but the entire site is full of good information.

Looking Back at Older Topics

I’m surprised at the number of topics I have covered on this blog- I still have so much left to discuss.

Here are five interesting posts to ponder:

The Dangers of Ignoring Mental Illness

Suicide and The Media

Should You Emphasize Grades or Mental Health?

Moving Forward: The Last Fifty Years of Psychiatry

Drinking, Drugs and Your Teen