Mental Health Infograph of Children and Teens

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Click on the image above to magnify the information in the graphic.

 

Children & teens susceptible to experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts that intersect with various areas of their lives. Some areas of a child’s/teen’s life that are impacted by mental illness include their school (academic performance, academic attainment), family dynamics, conflicts in the home, socially (disruptions in interpersonal relationships with peers), and personally in how one relates to themselves (i.e., low self-esteem, poor body image, etc).

It is important to keep in mind that the way in which mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, are exhibited in a child/teen’s behavior may differ from how an adult experiences similar symptoms. For instance, a depressed child of nine years old may demonstrate higher levels of irritability or externalized/aggressive behavior, in comparison to a depressed adult who may miss days of work due to being unable to get out of bed.

Luckily, mental illness symptoms can be identified early (in childhood or adolescents) in order to prevent long-term debilitation and struggle. There is hope.

Thank you National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for creating this informative graphic. http://www.nami.org.

Educate, Empower, & Recover…. OH MY!

Yesterday, I experienced an interesting moment.
I notified someone, who holds a dear place in my heart, that I will be working with adults who experience severe mental illness next year during my internship. I expected the responses “congratulations” or “that’s awesome”. However, I received those responses and something more: “I hope it doesn’t rub off on you”.

                                 This comment does not stem from ignorance.
                     The comment stems from a lack of knowledge and fear.

First of all, let me state that this individual did not mean the comment to be demeaning or stigmatizing. Yet, the comment got me thinking about the number of people who may also have a similar belief; the belief that mental illnesses are contagious. This idea is beyond inaccurate.

Honestly, the comment caught me off guard. I did not know whether to be upset, angry, or happy. I was upset at the amount of misunderstanding that people with a mental illness experience daily. I was angry at the stigma that is direct towards me and others who work within the mental healthcare system, in addition to those who receive mental health services. And, simultaneously, I was happy.

I felt an odd level of happiness at the comment, “I hope it doesn’t rub off on you”, because the comment provided me with information. The information I gained from hearing this comment is that there remains a need to inform communities and family members about mental illness. The comment has provided me with an opportunity to educate, as well as advocate.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI, 2013) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2012), mental illnesses are conditions that can disturb an individual’s thoughts, feelings, mood, interpersonal skills, and daily functioning. Mental illnesses impact people of all ages, socioeconomic status, race, and religion. Severe mental illnesses include major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders [such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)], and borderline personality disorder.

“Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weaknesses,
lack of character, or poor upbringing”
(NAMI, 2013).

I can not stress enough: recovery from mental illness is possible. Although there are genetic aspects to mental illnesses, as there is with the development of cancerous cells, mental illnesses are NOT contagious like the cold or flu.

 

For more information regarding the mental illnesses mentioned above, please visit the resources listed below:

— American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2012). www.psychiatry.org/mental-health.
— Let’s Talk Facts Brochures. (2005). American Psychiatric Association.
          www.psychiatry.org/mentalhealth/lets-talk-facts-brochures.
— National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (2013). www.nami.org
— What is Major Depression. (2013). National Alliance on Mental Illness. 
          http://www.nami.org/factsheets/depression_factsheet.pdf

You are NOT Alone

As I begin to create my place within the social work profession and the field of mental health, I have noticed that a specific population is not being addressed or shown concern within the United States: children and adolescents of parents with a mental illness.

I fall into this category.

The reason I feel compelled to shed light onto this population is because, at the moment, no one is. No one is addressing the fact that children are impacted by parents with a mental illness.

As a child and as an adolescent, I was not fully aware of what depression was. I did not understand what it meant when my parent told me they had depression. All I understood was that it was difficult for them to get out of bed (but didn’t understand why) and noticed that they were not laughing or smiling as much as they use to (but I didn’t know what changed). There were no clear or concise answers to explain.

The knowledge of what mental illness was, at the time, was not understood until I was in an undergraduate psychology course during my freshman year. From the time my parent told me that they were experiencing depression until the time I learned fully what it was, eight years had passed. It is not the fault of my parent or family members for not having explained further; I believe it was the stigma surrounding mental illness that prevented them from explaining further. It is still the stigma that prevents the uncomfortable discussions, like that one so many years ago, from occurring even today (maybe until now). I also think that my family wanted to protect me from the truth of our reality.

Even after having learned what depression and mental illness was at the age of 18, five more years passed until I learned about two amazing resources that would have been helpful for me. The two resources that can assist children and adolescents in gaining a clearer understanding about what their parent(s) and family is experiencing is an Australian’s national initiative called Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

1. The Australian initiative called Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI) promotes support and resources for children of parents who are experiencing a mental illness (COPMI, 2012). To learn more information and have access to their resources, check out the website at www.copmi.net.au.

2. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers support groups for (1) spouses and partners, (2) families and friends, or (3) parents who have a child who is experiencing a mental illness. However, there are no support groups for only children of parents with a mental illness (NAMI, 2013). For more information about the resources and support groups that NAMI provides, please visit their website at www.nami.org to find a location near you. 

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