Mental illness is a huge topic that many people don’t speak much about. Besides the point of being a parent, other professionals are still studying this topic as a whole. This is why you may find such topics buried away. It’s easier to ignore the emotion than to deal with it.
Environmental factors contribute largely to an individual’s own health. Lets start with the more popular idea of physical health. If one was constantly exposed to cold, they may suffer from conditions prone to develop in cold environments. For example, you could catch pneumonia. If you grew up with parents who were controlling, you are going to mentally be prone to self-control yourself. Financial stability, and quality of life are also other contributing factors.
Steven Richfield is a parenting coach and he suggests, “Instead of modeling appropriate restraint when faced with reactive children, reactive parenting is the rule.”
Due to all the misconceptions surrounding this, we decided to create an educational guide that will show you why parents were unprepared for their child’s mental illness. According to The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CAMH, “70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.”
In order to tackle this problem, we all need to be aware. Be aware of our surroundings, ourselves, our children and the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Not only must you detect mental illness at an early stage, but you also need to look at yourself and deal with any personal issues that may be going on. As parents, you can learn to handle your stresses appropriately, and refrain from projecting it back to your kids for them to manifest it.
It’s the lack of experience that makes you feel as though you were unprepared. This is why people share experiences to learn from each other. Some families either have no need to deal with it, or just simply haven’t. My grandparents, whom raised my parents, were born into a society of survival. After a war and a recession, they were focused on being physically okay and having enough funds to survive.
There was a community effort involving everyone at that time. You cannot grow unless you bounce your ideas off experienced individuals. The idea of success back then could be perceived as money, family and land. Now, it is based on money, belongings and other materialistic items. Based on my observation, it is this societal view of what ‘success’ means that also contributes to the lack of attention for those suffering with mental health.
Communicating is something we all work on with each other on a daily basis. Communications is a degree for a reason. It takes consciousness and awareness to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively. Parents may be experiencing poor communication with their child. If you are having trouble getting through to them, try a different method. Are they a visual learner or an auditory learner? Use these attributes to address your child as personalized as possible.
Here are some tips on how to develop an open communication you’re your child. With the amount of media being projected to the public, it is no wonder people start to get lost with ideas. Your child may be trying to communicate with you but are having trouble due to exterior factors. The Internet is also creating a norm not to have a face-to-face communication. This is also causing parents and children to lack appropriate developmental senses that are essential to good communication skills.
There is not much education surrounding mental illness, and so it is only natural parents do not have the resources needed to learn about it. According to the CAMH, “in Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.” With all the grey areas, some people aren’t sure where to go for the answers. Doctors will treat you depending on your condition, however there are controversies surrounding that as well.
The medications used do not always work. For example, I had gone on an antidepressant called Cipralex. Instead of curing my depression, it made me feel numb inside and I did not feel like the same person. This lack of knowledge about application of these meds and when to use it are a huge controversy as well. Ultimately, a healthy mind stems from exercise, healthy eating and minimal stress. It is time we start treating the root to the problem.
Everyone is so busy these days, so it is only natural mental illness can often be overlooked. Either your child grows up not noticing until later, or the parents are so caught up in their busy lives that they don’t notice the symptoms. Early diagnosis is important for all ailments. If we can learn how to see the symptoms, we can learn how to work with them. Symptoms from mental illnesses often get waved aside and labeled as behavior problems.
We are also busy because there is a lack of a general sense of community in society, compared to our grandparents today. CAMH said, “Canadians in the lowest income group are 3 to 4 times more likely than those in the highest income group to report poor to fair mental health.” My observation of this is simple. The busier you are trying to survive financially - and independently - the least attention you put on your life and child’s mental health.
Either the child refuses diagnosis when they are older, or the parents don’t diagnose their children and seek the appropriate help. The 2012 RBC Children’s Mental Health Parents Poll discusses how parents may be neglecting their children’s mental health. The poll states “…many children improve with early intervention and treatment, so it’s absolutely crucial for parents and caregivers, doctors and teachers to have a basic level of mental health knowledge. Armed with the proper tools, they can spot the warning signs if a child is struggling at an early age, and intervene to get help.”
If you are keeping open lines of communication with your kids, they will be more likely to open up to you and get a proper diagnosis. According to the CAMH, “The disease burden of mental illness and addiction in Ontario is 1.5 times higher than all cancers put together and more than 7 times that of all infectious diseases. This includes years lived with less than full function and years lost to early death.”
Money may be the source to our physical stability, however parents need to do their due diligence to make sure their child is mentally okay. That means paying attention to your child, especially if they have tendencies that you are overlooking. For example, if your child constantly talks, it is time to look at the reason why. Instead of answering their questions only half listening, try to look for signs that may indicate a bigger issue, such as ADD or ADHD. It is a common mental illness among kids that can continue to show in their adolescents.
As a parent, you may also be focused too much on your relationship with your significant other. Yes, it is important and you must find a healthy balance between your kids and personal life, however only to a certain extent. You choose to have kids so you must make them a priority and not let feeble relationship problems interfere with your parenting skills.
Just like with a child who has special needs, those suffering from mental illness will require more patience than usual. Patience is a virtue, so if you want to follow a high moral standard, this would be the first to focus on. Being patient means taking your time when you explain things, finding a solution to better communicate with your child and keeping an open mind when it comes to treating their condition.
You may think you know better, but this is especially a time to let your child make his/her own decisions. Steven Richfield explains, “Knowing parents recognize when to withhold their opinion and give children the latitude to make acceptable mistakes that contain valuable life lessons. Alternately, the feelings of satisfaction and self-determination that comes from following their own growing discretion advances character development.”
Some parents may be stuck in the idea thinking they know everything, and their child knows nothing. It’s a learning experience for everyone. Emotional development is key to any child’s skills. If parents are neglecting addressing their own issues, it is naturally going to reflect in the children themselves. Parents need to learn to address their own issues first, so they can be capable of giving the appropriate advice when parenting.
Steven Richfield suggests, “Some adults have ego wounds or attachment needs that motivate their parenting decisions. For example, rather than suffer the embarrassment of their child not wearing the latest clothing or engaging in socially sanctioned activities, they don't allow children's input and make decisions for them. Parents may also speak for their children to ensure that they don't utter the "wrong" response. Some parents justify decisions to curtail separation or independence because the child is "not old enough" when it is the parent that is unprepared for these steps toward emotional self-sufficiency.”
There is a lack of awareness for both the child and the parents in regards to mental illness and the problem these days. It was a different era as I was explaining earlier in this article. The lack of awareness is creating an opportunity for mental illness to be overlooked. The more aware we can be, the closer we are to helping these kids. Be aware that standards and goals change, as children get older.
This means that as a parent, you must adjust too. “Letting go of parental pet peeves provides room for them to self-navigate and contend with the consequences of their actions or inaction,” explains Richfield. “By limiting reminders and rescuing we allow life experience to teach longstanding lessons.”
Living in such a digital world directly impacts where our children get their information from and we need to see how to monitor that. The media influences people of all ages, but children are more susceptible. The amount of models in our ads can alter their idea of beauty and be damaging on their self-esteem. On the same note, there is cyber bullying to be concerned about too.
Sometimes kids may expose themselves online without realizing the consequences. Lets take the famous case of Amanda Todd who committed suicide in 2012 due to cyber bullying. The outcome of unmonitored use of the Internet resulted in her being tricked, bullied and eventually led to her suffering depression so intense that she took her own life.
This plays a huge part in why parents are unprepared. Their children are vulnerable just by being born into such a technologically advanced and globally connected world. Children can be in vulnerable situations that you may not even know about. Richfield says, “Children's identity formation requires parents gradually relieve the pressure to strictly conform and widen the parameters for autonomous functioning. This is critical for future psychological health.”
This can also to apply to parents being vulnerable as well. According to the 2012 RBC Children’s Mental Health Parents Poll, “The majority of parents, we learned, assume that their children will open up to them if they have a problem. But half of kids say they talk to their friends first if they have a mental health concern, and 20% of kids say they’d just go silent and not mention their worries to anyone. This is complicated by the fact that parents are silent on the topic too: 45% haven’t prompted conversations with anyone about their children’s mental health concerns. These are dangerous silences.”
A lot has changed between the generations and we live in a time where it is more evident than ever. This has caused a shift in the way we treat each other in society. Initially, survival was the instinctual focus when parenting. In our current day, we need to learn how to survive mentally. If our mental health is not doing well, than our physical health will follow suit.
If you grew up with an authoritative style, then this could affect you as well. Richfield says, “Reactive parenting often has its roots in childhood. The daily frustration of raising children tests the patience of all parents and can "open windows" into one's own childhood. If adults were raised with an authoritarian parenting style that entailed intimidation and fear, these practices may be the only available responses when emotions heat up. “ This is when he suggests working on cooling off and thinking clearly when parenting your child.
Meditation and exercise are essential to a healthy mind. Parents may have lost that spirituality that allows someone to connect on a deeper level. You do not necessarily have to be religious, but you must have your own moral code. Some people get in touch with their spirituality through music, nature, prayer or exercise. Whichever the case may be, this is important to teach your children so they know how to maintain a healthy mind.
This is a time to ease up on directional parenting. “While it is critical to supply guidance, childhood is a time to safely discover themselves,” says Richfield. “They need freedom to determine their likes, dislikes, and aspirations, apart from what parents want for them.”
There is a stigma around mental health and so this is also a major determining factor. Not only are your children less likely to talk about it, but it could be hard for the parents too. Many people feel ashamed or shy to speak up - when they shouldn’t. If we create an open-minded society, we can create an opportunity for conversation. It is not just about talking about it, but ending the stigma.
I suffer from mental health and I am not afraid to admit it. I can function and manage with the right support systems. As long as I surround myself with the right people, my symptoms do not get in the way. They key here is to develop a communal system where we can lean on each other. The more people that are not prejudice towards mental health, means the more people available to support one another.
If you attack your child, it’s not going to get them to open up to you - you must communicate effectively with such sensitive matters. It is also a coincidence that all these generations exist on the same plane. This creates many different perspectives and parenting styles. It’s no longer about who is right and wrong - it is about a collective effort in finding a solution and ending mental health stigmas.
According to the CAMH, “Mental and physical health are linked. People with a long-term medical condition such as chronic pain are much more likely to also experience mood disorders. Conversely, people with a mood disorder are at much higher risk of developing a long-term medical condition.” So let’s get prepared by educating ourselves and start learning how to make the next generation rise!
Sources: CAMH.com, RBC.com, HealthyPlace.com