Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress.

COLUMN: Parents need to get informed about mental health illnesses

Just like basic first aid and keeping them physically healthy, we need to support our kids mentally

You’re overreacting.

You’re crazy.

Just settle down.

Don’t panic.

Don’t be so dramatic.

We’ve all said these things. And sometimes, they’re perfectly valid sentiments. Yes, some people are over dramatic. Some people do over react. Some people do needlessly worry.

But more often than not, someone’s panic, worry, fear or sadness has a deeper root that needs love and attention — not a lecture. I was reminded of this need to consider the mental health of others recently, while attending a Chilliwack School District youth-led mental health awareness event.

Several of the 100 teens in attendance noted that one of the barriers to mental health help they experience is adults who don’t believe in mental health.

That’s right. Adults who don’t believe in mental health.

They referred to parents who look past signs of depression and just see lazy teens. Parents who don’t believe mental health illnesses actually exist, and parents who can’t imagine their child is experiencing one. They mentioned teachers who think needing mental breaks is an excuse to wander the halls. Counsellors who think they’re overreacting to get out of class.

Now, I’m a mom of three young adults. I have to admit, it’s incredibly hard to tease apart the actions of a teenager who is moping around to decipher if they are just tired and under the constant dread about the future, or if there is something more to the story. Teenagers are pushing themselves hard to fill up their resumes with volunteer work, extra curricular achievements, small business ventures and work experience, on top of juggling academics. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

And then think about this. Some kids — I would say many kids — struggle just to get to school each day. They carry the weight of a mental health issue with them everywhere like an invisible beast. They’re still expected to succeed. They’re expected to contribute to conversations in class as if nothing is wrong. They’re expected to be cheerful with friends. To get picked for the team. To be a leader, not a follower. To be a success, if not in every way then at least in one.

And admittedly, it’s hard to know if the kid who is failing to thrive is doing it for attention, or because they really are lazy, if there’s a learning barrier, or if there is a mental health issue gnawing away inside of them.

But it is irresponsible not to consider mental health issues when dealing with kids and teenagers. It’s irresponsible to ignore the pleas of a child or teenager who is showing signs of a mental illness. And just like we know the baseline for a fever, the signs of communicable disease, and how to administer basic first aid or call an ambulance, all parents, caregivers and educators should know the signs of mental health illnesses.

This is Mental Health Week in Canada, and the Canadian Mental Health Association is working to get this basic information out to the public.

“Mental health is a state of well-being, and we all have it,” their website states. “We might have a mental illness, and we might not. Either way, we can all feel well. We can all have good mental health.”

They have articles on how mental health is just like physical health. Just as a physically-fit person can have a broken leg, a mentally-fit person can have a mental health issue. People can have long-term mental health illnesses, and short ones.

And just like physical ailments, there is help to get through a mental health crisis. But it sometimes takes that village we talk about to identify it first.

There are countless ways these days to learn about mental health. Step one could be talking to your family doctor. There is also a nurse line in B.C., available anytime by dialing 8-1-1.

You can also call 310Mental Health Support at 310-6789 (no area code needed) for emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health. Then there is the long-running Kid’s Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, staffed by professional counsellors, 24 hours a day.

To learn more about mental health online, visit www.healthlinkbc.ca/mental-health or BC Mental Health.

Of course, mental health issues affect people of all ages, and the number of resources are growing all the time.

They include the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, the Mental Health Commission, and Here to Help.

Finally, if you or someone else is in a crisis, call 9-1-1. It’s not an overreaction. It’s not overly dramatic. It’s a way towards the help that is needed.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RCMP target speeders between Abbotsford and Surrey in month-long blitz

Officers throughout the province launch Swoop campaign

Abbotsford working to ease building permit backlog: mayor

Mayor Henry Braun said tripling of applications has slowed down approval process

Spring/summer season of exhibits opens at The Reach

Opening reception on Thursday, May 23 at Abbotsford gallery-museum

Two week lock down lifted for Kent Institution

A search at the prison found nearly 26 grams of hashish and a cellphone

UPDATED: Abbotsford man says he’ll take People’s Party lawsuit as far as he can

Federal judge shut down Satinder Dhillon’s ‘nonsensical’ motion to bar use of PPC name in byelection

Kelowna toddler suffers cracked skull after fall from balcony

Neighbour who found the two-year-old boy said he has a bump the size of a golf ball on his head

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

Canada stripping citizenship from Chinese man over alleged marriage fraud

The move comes amid severely strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing

Nevada court orders former Vancouver man to pay back $21.7 million to investors

The commission says Michael Lathigee committed fraud over a decade ago

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

UBC prof says report citing $89B home equity loss a ‘grassroots movement of the rich’

Report says longtime homeowners are being taxed out of their homes by the NDP

Baby boom seniors putting pressure on B.C. long-term care: report

B.C. leads Canada in growth of dementia, dependence on care

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

TransLink fares to go up on July 1

Fares will increase by a few cents to a few dollars

Most Read