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Creating a New Mental Health Culture

Two years after our son was treated for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and actions.

Two years after our son was treated for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and actions.

I was recently reminded that our kids’ stories of resiliency is so important to share, my son’s especially, because he came back to us from the brink of death.

I thanked my son for letting me share his story of his depression and suicidal thoughts and tendencies with a friend so she had more information to help her child, who is depressed and just started talking about death.

“Do you think maybe my story could help someone, to save them from dying?” he said. I replied, “I do. I am so impressed that you don’t care that other people know you were so sad that you wanted to kill yourself. And I’m thankful you continue to let me share your story to help other kids. I’ve always hoped you would share your story yourself someday, using your words.”

“Maybe one day I’ll write a book about it.” He said, with a little smile.

There are adults who can’t/won’t share their stories because of the stigma and shame that comes with a mental health diagnosis. I find that incredibly sad for multiple reasons. One, because there are people who are unable to share and get support and two, because sharing their stories could help people in the future who are diagnosed with mental health issues to feel they too, could share their stories and get the help they need.

I am immensely proud of my son. I know in the past, it was my choice as his parent to share or not share and I knew I was taking away his right to anonymity. I felt I had to because we’d shared  his kidney failure and transplant so widely and to not share this would have sent him the message there was a reason not to share (shame) and who knows what else he could have conjured up in his nine-year-old brain.

I believe as a society we all have a duty to help each other and one way is to help the people behind us who are faced with the same challenges as ourselves. I hope my son feels empowered by sharing his story. There  has never been any shame in our family and we’ve dealt with the bias other people have had, with him and not only for him.

In our world of him – meaning his tiny world of one – we’ve strived to create a culture with no shame, not realizing the impact it could have on the world around us. When I told him his story has the ability to help families help their young children, and may even help save a life someday, he just smiled and said, “Cool.”

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