Let’s Talk About It

“What should I do if my friend is having a panic attack?” “If you have anxiety, will you get depression when you’re pregnant?” “I know my friend is depressed, but she won’t admit it. What should I do?” “Can you get panic attacks while you’re sleeping?”

These are some of the questions I was asked last week when I spoke to a class of 36 high school juniors. I presented a program called Ending the Silence, developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The purpose is to raise awareness of mental illness and help end the stigma.

I love to speak to high school students and bring attention to mental health. If I attended something like this when I was a teen, maybe I wouldn’t have waited so long to get treatment for anxiety and panic attacks.

Mental illness is a difficult subject to discuss, and can be especially hard for young people. If kids aren’t embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it, there’s a good chance there would be less stigma for the next generation.

When I stood in front of the class to share my story, I noticed how engaged the students were. I had their full attention, and for the next fifteen minutes they would learn how panic changed my life and also my daughter’s. They’d see that recovery is possible. I wondered if any of them had ever heard anyone speak openly about their struggle with a mental illness.

My co-presenter and I explained the warning signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder.

We assured the teens there is no shame in having a mental health condition. We told them millions of people around the world live with some type of mental illness. It affects not only the person dealing with the disorder, but their families as well.

Our message to the students was clear. The stigma needs to end. Many people don’t say anything about their condition, in fear of being ridiculed. Stigma can keep someone from reaching out for medical help.

It took me twenty years to go to my doctor. I knew it wasn’t normal to have extreme bursts of fear. My heart would beat fast, I’d get clammy and shaky, and was afraid I’d faint. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong with me. I didn’t think anyone would understand, not even my doctor.

We wanted those high school juniors to know they aren’t alone.Β  If they or someone they know has a mental health condition, it’s important to talk about it and get help. The sooner, the better. We wanted those students to know that even though mental illness can be extremely challenging to live with, there is hope.

Together, we can end the stigma.

First image courtesy of here

Second image courtesy of here

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33 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About It

  1. Bravo. The more they know the better off they will be, now and later on. They might have a problem, and it is likely over the years that they will encounter someone who does. A friend, their spouse, their child. It takes courage to do what you do, and you do it well. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! And exactly… I feel that even if they or family/friends don’t have an issue now, chances are they’ll come across it in their lifetime. Thank you again for your support and kind words!🌷

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for taking the time to speak to teens and share your story. I think that meeting you and hearing about your struggles makes this challenge real and relatable. So many of us have suffered in silence. Please continue to do this important work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for that! I really appreciate your kind words. I do think it’s important for the teens to see and talk with someone in person who has dealt with some of the challenging issues. I try to show them that even though it’s hard, life can get better and there is hope! Thanks again πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re tackling a worthy cause. For years I’ve had depression on and off. I’ve thought about suicide a number of times. The day before yesterday I took the second step and started researching medications to use. The last months generally speaking have been wonderful for me, but some days just drag you down again. I talked to three trusted people, including my husband, and they helped me get through it. But there are very few people I feel like I can talk to, and I’m worried that that tendency when times are rough will never go away. I want to be there for my husband and any kids we may have. One person I’ve talked to in the past after a night of being up all night thinking of ending my life just told me how selfish I was. If people act like that, don’t they know it only worsens the problems and the sensitive conscience people like me already might be wrestling with? So thank you for trying to put a light into the darkness and help others to try to be a healing, rather than hurting implement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry for my delayed response. My husband and I were out of town last week and I tried to unplug. So, first of all, thank you for visiting my blog and the follow, and the comment. It’s wonderful to connect with you, I’m following your blog. Thank you for sharing here. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with depression. It’s great that you’re talking to a few close people about it. They can be such wonderful support. Sorry for your bad experience when the one person said you were being selfish. Many times people don’t know what to say, and it can end up being the wrong thing to say. It’s hard, especially when someone hasn’t experienced what you’re going through. I know for anxiety, if someone says, “just get over it” or “stop being dramatic” or “just relax” or anything like that, it just makes it worse. It’s hard to open up and share a mental health problem. So good for you for doing that. I truly hope you get the support you need, sounds like your husband is a great source of support. Also, that’s good you’re researching meds. It’s different for everyone. In my case, anti-depressant meds are what really helped me get my life back. But like I said, everyone’s different… different side effects, etc. Take care, and again, thank you for connecting with me! Jenny

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for serving in this way. We really need to talk about it. If you have time to talk to middle school students, you could save even more. I have students who suffer from anxiety with school avoidance. There’s nothing worse to watch than a child clawing and crying — trying to get away from the ones who “threaten” to make her leave the comfort of her car to go into place she once loved — school. Any tips?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your comment. NAMI’s Ending the Silence program is also for middle schools. So far, I’ve only presented at high schools. I agree, it’d be great to reach the younger kids at middle school. That’s sad and must be hard to see, the kids who desperately do not want to go to school. It’s so hard as a parent. I was grateful that I knew what was wrong with my little girl, when she was in fourth grade and did NOT want to go to school, literally couldn’t force herself to walk onto campus. She was so afraid of the panic coming back. But if a parent has never experienced those frightening symptoms, they can’t possibly understand why their child won’t get out of the car and go to school. Logically, it doesn’t make sense. My daughter knew there was nothing to be afraid of at school, but the fear of another anxiety attack pushed all logic aside. Thankfully, I understood that. So one tip I have is to educate the parents. If they really understand the emotions their child is experiencing, which are frightening, they may be able to handle the situation better. It can be super frustrating. But parents need to know that their child really does want to be able to go, they can’t figure out how to do that or maybe how to express how they’re feeling. What seemed to work the best with my daughter was when I volunteered in the classroom. Then in the morning when she went to school, she knew I’d be back soon and would spend a couple hours in her classroom. Hopefully some of this helps. It’s so hard, and changes, depending on the child and situation. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This post really resonated with me. I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 23, at least 13 years after I experienced my first symptoms. I’m not 30. A couple of years ago I did my first public talk about my journey to some psychology students at the university that I work at. Recently, I did a community talk about my journey for a local “continuing education programme”. Only 4 people came, but I’m doing the talk again this term and I’m hopeful that word will spread. On the night that I did the talk, I posted this to my blog’s FB page: “Perhaps one day speaking openly about mental illness won’t be something to be proud or nervous about… Perhaps one day it will just be a thing that everyone does. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”. I’m really hopeful that one day this will be the case. Your last paragraph is exactly what I want to achieve with my talks.

    Do you have any materials that you use for your talks/workshops/presentations? I’d be interested in sharing resources, if this is possible?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for sharing that, I loved reading your comment because it reiterates the fact that more people ARE talking about mental health and mental illness. I’m happy to connect with you in this way, that we both speak out about it. Your community talks sound great, and I’m sure word will spread, it just takes time. I’d love to expand my talks to not only high schoolers, but the community in general. NAMI has a program for that, and I’m looking into it. I’m in the US… are you? As I volunteer for NAMI, the presentation materials are from them. Maybe you could contact NAMI to volunteer (if you’re in the US). Also, they have a lot of resources on their website. The presentation I do is in two parts, 50mins total… the first (done by my co-presenter) is a slide presentation and talking general about mental health/mental illness, how to notice the warning signs, and what to do about it. Then the part I do is tell my story. I don’t have resources for that, I just give a 10-15min talk about my journey, and also my daughter’s. I wish I could help you out more with resources. Best of luck with your talks, continue them, as I know you’re helping people. Thank you for sharing your story. As you know, it’s really important to do so. Thanks again!

      Like

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