The kids are alright. Except, no, wake up, they’re really not.

stig·ma

ˈstiɡmə/

noun

noun: stigma; plural noun: stigmata; plural noun: stigmas

1. a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”the stigma of having gone to prison will always be with me”
 synonyms:shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation, (bad) reputation “the stigma of bankruptcy”

The kids are alright. Or are they?

If you’ve ever hung out with me on The Keswick Blog before, you may be under the impression that I’m not necessarily a champion for Facts. That I am more about feelings, or opinions born of facts, or maybe feelpinions, perhaps? Well, I am kind of a fan of #RealFacts. And it turns out that I’ve become a bit of a curmudgeon and realize that I have have zero time or patience for #AltFacts or #FakeNews. Not only that, but I’m also not a big believer in statistics generally speaking (I could not get through my stats class in university to save my life, I’m telling you). There are just too many ways to manipulate statistics to fit even the wackiest arguments. But with that said, even I will concede that there are a few areas in which facts and statistics resonate with me, and when that happens, I try to share them with others. And this is one of those areas that resonate with me, because for all the iPhones, $200 pairs of shoes, new flat screen televisions in their bedrooms and unlimited data plans to Snapchat their days away, the kids are not alright. And as adults, as parents, as concerned citizens, it’s time to wake. the. fuck. up.

*Warning – I’ll be tossing a few offensive words throughout this post. But if you’re offended by my using the word ‘fuck’ and not by the gross misunderstanding and misinformation that the majority of us are operating under when it comes to our children’s mental health, I’ll bid you adieu right here.

Our kids are suffering. Not all of our kids, but far, far, far too many of our kids. And not enough is being done to help them. WE are not doing enough to help them. And even when a parent, friend, teacher or other adult figure recognizes the signs that a child may be suffering, too many of those children are not able to access the appropriate services to get the help that they need.

Am I talking about cancer? Nope. Am I talking about learning disabilities, closer, but nope. I’m talking about mental health. The mental health (and illness) as it pertains to our children and youth, to be specific. Because contrary to popular views of previous generations, children are people, and therefore completely capable of feeling ALL the feelings and experiencing ALL the complications that make up what we define as ‘mental health.’

I promised you some statistics earlier, and since I almost always deliver on my promises (the exception being if said promises are made while you’re holding a giant Toblerone bar in front of me. In that case, I’m apt to say or promise just about anything to get my hands on it).

But alas, there is no chocolate in sight, so here they are:

  • It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide.
  • Today, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode.
  • The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million.
  • Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities
  • Mental illness is increasingly threatening the lives of our children; with Canada’s youth suicide rate the third highest in the industrialized world.
  • Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide.
  • Schizophrenia is youth’s greatest disabler as it strikes most often in the 16 to 30 year age group, affecting an estimated one person in 100.
  • Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
  • In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.
    *Emphasis added 
    (From The Canadian Mental Health Association @ http://www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/#.WNsqPxgZPVo)

And we, as parents, guardians, and a society, still want to insist that the kids are alright? Really? We want to continue thinking that if we just buy the right product, if we just make sure that they have the right ‘stuff’ that everything will be okay. But no. Step back and take a good look at your kids, a real, good, honest-to-God look. Is there something there that you haven’t seen or noticed before? Is there something there that you’ve been  justifying or excusing away that really, should be dealt with? Is there something going on with your child or teen that you’ve been denying, even though you know, deep in your heart that something is just wrong?

There is no shame in seeking help for your child and there should be no stigma attached by your or anyone else to your child for his suffering. It is not a failure on your part if your child is struggling with mental health issues. It is not a failure of your child either. Shit happens. We need to deal with it. Because there is very real shame in NOT dealing with and seeking help for issues that are HURTING a child and causing him or her to SUFFER needlessly and alone. Far too often, our egos as parents prevents us from being HONEST about what is going on with our kids. It’s not them, it’s the school. It’s not them, it’s the other kids. It’s not them, it’s our ex. It’s not them, it’s lack of sleep. And you know what? Sometimes is may not be them. But sometimes, it is. And if we’re so heavily invested in it not being them, who is going to step up, step in and help them to deal?

Years ago, mental health and mental illness were taboo, scary, shameful subjects that were spoken of in whispers and largely ignored, where possible, dismissed when acceptable and denied when confronted. The fear and stigma attached to mental illness has likely caused more complications and strife than it’s ever prevented.

My message to parents? Simple. Get out of your own way. So what if your kids aren’t “Facebook” perfect? So your life doesn’t fit into a quirky 140-character tweet. Maybe when we stop living our lives and running our families with the goal to garner the most “Likes” or “Followers” and instead begin to run our affairs in the best interests of our children and our selves with the aim to be solidly educated and productive, contributing members of society, only then will we begin to see some of those terrifying statistics we read above start to change for the better.

There is NO excuse why only 1 in 5 children is getting the mental health services they need. It cannot be said enough. There is NO shame in admitting that you need help to figure out how to help your child. If your child fell, and broke his arm, would you try to set and cast it yourself? Of course not. If your child had a raging ear infection, would you put a band-aid on it and pretend they were fine? Of course not. That would be ridiculous, even downright neglectful. Right?

Well, trying to pretend that a child cannot be suffering from mental health issues when all of the signs and behaviour suggest otherwise is just as ridiculous, and yes, neglectful. Children and youth need us to be strong, capable adults who protect them, guide them, and help them. If our egos get in the way of that, whose best interests are we serving?

So, are the kids alright?

The kids? Oh, sure they’re alright. Except that one over there, the forlorn-looking fella, he’s eleven-years-old and closing in on 200lbs, oh, and that sixth grader, the one with the backless shirt and bra straps hanging out? She threw a chair at her teacher yesterday and threatened another student with a stapler. Oh, right, and maybe that one sulking over there, she used to be a boy, but decided in the third grade that she wanted to be a girl, so we just went with it, but now puberty is starting and shit it getting real. Mom? Well, that’s the kicker, mom says he only eats fresh fruit, vegetables and lean chicken, so there’s nothing she can do about his weight, He’s just big-boned. And about that chair throwing thing? Well, that teacher is a bitch and was ganging up on her daughter demanding that she sit in her seat when all she wanted was to go for a drink at the fountain. The other student? Lying. Staplers are for losers. Do you see this? Are you taking this in? These children are SUFFERING and their suffering makes ADULTS scared, uncomfortable and defensive. It needs to make adults sit up, take notice and start addressing the source of children’s suffering.

For the last time, there is no shame in seeking help. There is enormous shame in pretending that all is well when things are falling apart. Needing and seeking help with mental health concerns is not wrong, for anyone. Seeing or even suspecting that there is a need for mental health intervention and not reaching out and seeking that help on behalf of those vulnerable members of the society is a life sentence. Not merely for the child, but for the rest of society as well.

#EndStigma #LetsTalk #KidsHelpLine #TheKidsArentAlright #KidsDoGetDepressed #GetLoud