9 Ways Parents Knew It Was Time to Get Their Child Mental Health Help

50
50

Recognizing the early signs of mental illness isn’t always easy. There’s no blood test results and (usually) no tumors to magically explain seemingly strange behavior. Because of this, it typically takes ten years from the time symptoms first appear until someone gets a correct diagnosis and proper treatment, according to Mental Health America.

For children experiencing mental health issues, one of the most important early intervention tools can be parents. To learn more about how parents identify early signs of mental health issues, we teamed up with Mental Health America and asked parents when they knew it was time to get their child mental health care.

Of course, every person is different, and mental illnesses manifest in many different ways. But the stakes are too high to turn the other way.

Here’s what parents had to say:

1. “When I realized his teacher and I couldn’t be the only two people who saw there was more going on than a boy struggling in school. I was torn on what to do because most people in my life minimized my complaints. I wasn’t sure a label was what we wanted, but I just wanted school life to be a little less difficult for him. So if I need a label to do that, then I embrace it.” — Raelene St Clair

mental health meme: "When I realized his teacher and I couldn't be the only two people who saw there was more going on than a boy struggling in school.

2. “When my son would take two hours at the toy store because he was too scared of making the wrong choice.” — Christy Vogel

Mental health meme: When my son would take two hours at the toy store because he was too scared of making the wrong choice."

3. “My child’s temper tantrums were not ordinary temper tantrums. They lasted anywhere between 30 minutes to four-to-six hours, and could be violent.” — Dionne Driscoll

mental health meme: My child's temper tantrums were not ordinary temper tantrums.

4.I knew it was time to get help for my son when he was either crying or angry for most of the day. The daycare was calling us every day to come in because his behavior was out of control. He was only 4.” — Anna Davis Gode

mental health meme: I knew it was time to get help for my son when he was either crying or angry for most of the day."

 

5. He felt like his lungs were sinking in and his mind was spinning.” — Karrie Hale-Sanders

Mental Health meme: He felt like his lungs were sinking in and his mind was spinning.

6. “After listening to him talk, I turned to him and asked, ‘Do you ever feel like you’ll implode under the weight of your own thoughts?’ His answer was simply, ‘Yes.'” — Amanda Talma

mental health meme: "After listening to him talk, I turned to him and asked, 'Do you ever feel like you'll implode under the weight of your own thoughts?' His answer was simply, 'Yes.'

7. “Both my kids inherited my mental illness genes. As soon as I recognized similar symptoms in them, we started diagnoses and treatment options. I was always honest with them about mine and explained to them what I was going through as soon as they were old enough to understand. Mental illness is something we balance together in our family.” — Tracy Bryan

mental health meme: "Both my kids inherited my mental illness genes. As soon as I recognized similar symptoms in them, we started diagnoses and treatment options.

 

8. In the back of my mind I knew he was struggling but never wanted to deal with it — until I witnessed him have a breakdown.” — Donnette D Watson

mental health meme: "In the back of my mind I knew he was struggling but never wanted to deal with it — until I witnessed him have a breakdown."

 

9. When I noticed major changes in his personality. Then he had a breakdown, which landed him two states away in a mental health facility. In hindsight, that was the beginning of hope.” — Beverly Galwey

mental health meme: "When I noticed major changes in his personality. Then he had a breakdown, which landed him two states away in a mental health facility. In hindsight, that was the beginning of hope."

*Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

To learn more about identifying the early signs of mental illness, check out Mental Health America’s B4Stage4 campaign and the video below:

50
50
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

7 Easy but Important Ways to Participate in National Suicide Prevention Week

4k
4k

During the week surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, it’s time to speak up.

For the 41,149 Americans who took their own lives last year.

For the more than 800,000 people who die by suicide across the world each year.

For the countless more who have made suicide attempts or have lost a loved one to suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 6 to Sept. 12) is an opportunity to confront these deaths as a nation, and work to get those numbers down through dialogue and action that puts suicide prevention in the forefront.

Don’t keep quiet. Here are seven things you can do to support suicide prevention during National Suicide Prevention Week:

1. Educate yourself about the signs of emotional distress, and be prepared when you see them.

“Everyone faces emotional challenges, but if you have a gut feeling it’s more than the everyday ups and downs, it’s important to reach out for help,” Dr. Victor Schwartz, Medical Director of the JED Foundation, told The Mighty in an email. He urges young people to take action this Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. “Learn about the warning signs of emotional distress and the steps you can take to get the support you or a friend may need. You don’t need to be an expert to make a difference.”

Schwartz recommended some resources that might help:

  • Read the Help a Friend in Need guide to learn how to identify potential warning signs a friend might be in emotional distress and how to find help.
  • Check out Half of Us for more information on various emotional health issues and how to be there for a friend

Helping a friend can also be as easy as texting. Text “START” to 741-741 if you’re worried about yourself or someone you know. Confidential support is available from Crisis Text Line 24/7.

2. Tell someone you’ll see them tomorrow and bring a World Suicide Prevention Day pack.

Tomorrow15-ProfileImage

Above all else, we choose to stay,” wrote To Write Love on Her Arms founder Jamie Tworkowski during last year’s Suicide Prevention Week. “We stay because no one else can play our part. Life is worth living. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

These words inspired this year’s To Write Love on Her Arms suicide prevention campaign. Their goal is to raise $75,000 by selling suicide prevention packs. According to their website, all the profit will go to treatment and recovery.

updatedpack

Each pack includes a shirt, a bracelet, three posters and informational cards. “Use them as conversation starters, encouraging reminders and informative tools to share with others,” its website says. Packs will be sold until September 13.

3. Join the conversation with #ReasonsISpeak

Why is it important to speak up about suicide? Join Active Minds and share your reason using the hashtag #ReasonsISpeak. The conversation is already happening. Here are some examples below:

4. Get creative and give someone a reason to stay.

Project LETS Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports students and young adults with mental illness, is collecting artwork, poetry, stories or anything that might give someone who’s considered suicide a reason to stay.

“It’s so important for us to know what keeps us alive and thriving. What makes us excited to continue living in the midst of what we deal with?” Stefanie Lyn Kaufman, founder of Project LETS Inc., told The Mighty. “In collecting reasons to stay, we hope to offer tidbits of wisdom, a collection of real, honest and true reasons to stay.”

You can submit your reason here, or share your reason using the hashtag #ReasonsToStay.

5. Encourage your school or workplace to get screened. 

Created by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Interactive Screening Program is an evidence-based way of reaching people who are at risk for suicide and connecting them to support and help, according to the American Foundation for Suicide’s website. The screening is in the form of an anonymous online self-check questionnaire, and universities and workplaces can use it to determine if someone in their community is at risk.

A counselor reviews the answers and provides an individualized response, opening the door to an anonymous online dialogue. This conversation could be the first step in receiving help.

Screenings not only identify individuals who might need help but also send a great message that your classmate’s or colleague’s mental health is important.

6. Support means restrictions.

A number of studies indicate that means restriction — taking action to limit fatal and often public methods of suicide — is a productive means of suicide prevention. California made great strides for suicide prevention recently by approving funding to build a suicide barrier at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Cornell University has made similar modifications to the iconic Ithaca, New York, gorges. In the spring of 2010, Cornell installed chain link fences on seven bridges on or adjacent to the Ithaca campus.

If there’s somewhere in your town that’s known as a common spot for suicide, encourage officials to find a way to limit access and lower suicide rates.

7. Do your part to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

An overwhelming majority of people who die by suicide — 90 percent or more — had a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. But for those living with mental illness, suicide is not inevitable. When we speak up about mental health and create a culture where people can get help without shame, we give those with mental illness an opportunity to recover, manage and live their best life possible. Suicide is preventable, and we can work to make sure those at risk know they are not alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

4k
4k
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

5 Things I Want Someone Who's Been Diagnosed With a Mental Illness to Know

2k
2k

When I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and panic disorder at 15 years old, I had no clue what to expect. I knew my parents had depression and took medicine from time to time, but I didn’t know anyone else. I tried so hard to hide my diagnosis, making sure no one saw me taking any medication. I never wanted to answer questions like, “What are you taking? Are you sick?” Looking back, I wish I had someone there to tell me what it was going to be like. Here are five tips to keep in mind if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

1. There’s no “happy pill.”

Upon being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I thought, “Great! I will get a ‘happy pill’ and be on my merry way!” I quickly learned this wasn’t the case. Some antidepressants take up to six weeks to start working. These six weeks are frustrating. What’s even more frustrating is finding out some of the side effects — some medication makes you sleepy, have no sex drive, gain weight and make you feel like vomiting. You will either get over the initial side effects, or you’ll have to endure another six weeks on another medication. The most important thing to know is that it’s worth it. When you finally find a medication that works with your body, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

2. Some people will not understand.

Even though talking about mental illness is less taboo, there’s still a large stigma attached to it. Since the signs and symptoms of mental illness are mostly internal, some people will not understand. They can’t see your daily struggle to drag yourself out of bed. They can’t see you telling yourself you can get through one more day or working up enough courage to get through the door at work. Because they don’t see it they’ll think nothing is wrong, maybe even that you’re faking it. Do not listen to these people. You keep fighting your fight and pay no attention to the naysayers. They haven’t walked your path and therefore have no right to judge.

3. It’s OK not to be OK.

After hearing words like, “You have depression and an anxiety disorder,” you may feel like you’re finally on the mend. You now have a reason for feeling the way you’ve been feeling. I always feel like since I’m on medication and in therapy I should have it all together. But there will be days when you don’t. There will be days and maybe even weeks you relapse into a deep depression or mental breakdown. Take this time to work on yourself. Take it one day at a time. Write a list of things to accomplish that day and don’t think any further than that. My lists are as simple as “get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed…’” One time I had to take a month off of work to just get my life back together. But I’m learning I can always work though it. 

4. You will want to give up, but you’re stronger than that.

At times, you’ll feel like giving up. You’ll feel like no one understands, that no medication will ever work or that you just can’t live this life anymore. You are wrong. You are strong enough. You are important. You are loved. You will get through the feelings of hopelessness and doubt. There are better days to come. I’ve been through some really dark darks, and I’m so happy that I didn’t give up. So many people will be proud of you for getting through yours. Never give up.

5. You are never alone.

There’s always someone out there rooting for you, someone to talk to and someone who understands. Reach out to these people. It may be a stranger or it may be your best friend, but there’s always someone. You don’t have to go through this battle alone.

This advice is based on one person’s experiences, and should not be taken as medical advice. 

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Mighty is asking the following: Give advice to someone who has just been diagnosed with your mental illness. What do you wish someone had told you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

2k
2k
TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why I'm Speaking Up About How Suicide Is Discussed in the Emergency Room

2k
2k

As a nurse working in the emergency department, I frequently see people come in for suicide attempts. I’ve noticed there’s a stigma surrounding some attempts, and many colleagues agree there’s a difference in the way patients are treated depending on the type of attempt.

From what I’ve seen, a patient whose attempt is more “serious,” with visible life-threatening injuries or potentially deadly pathology results, is more likely to be treated with understanding, compassion and patience. It’s as if serious injuries validate the mental illness, making the inner turmoil visible to the outside world.

But the “less serious” the attempt is (for example, taking a non-lethal amount of medication or self-inflicted injuries that aren’t fatal), the less sympathy I’ve seen patients receive. This can also be said for patients who have repeat suicide attempts. I’ve heard these patients referred to as “time-wasters,” “attention-seekers,” “taking up beds,” and they’re described as “crying out for help.” Although it’s acknowledged as wrong, there’s still anger and frustration felt towards the patient. I’ve heard many question the reason for their behavior. But I believe anyone who intentionally puts themselves in harm’s way needs help, regardless of the intended outcome, and are still entitled to be treated with dignity, understanding and kindness. 

When I was 23, I tried to jump off a cliff after being discharged from a psychiatric hospital. I have bipolar affective disorder. I rarely call this a suicide attempt, although I would’ve jumped if it weren’t for a person walking past. If that person didn’t talk me down from the edge I wouldn’t be here today. I didn’t end up in an emergency department that night; instead the person called the local psychiatric triage team for advice and made sure I got home safely. The next morning my psychiatrist arranged for me to have electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

I was determined to take my life. However, just because I didn’t end up in the emergency department didn’t make my determination to kill myself less serious. For weeks afterwards I remained suicidal. It’s because of my wonderful family and excellent psychiatrist I got through those weeks alive.

According to the World Health Organization, 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and for every successful suicide there are many more people who attempt it. About 20 percent of people who die by suicide have made a prior suicide attempt. But the stigma attached to suicide can be isolating and discourages help-seeking behaviors.

When I was suicidal I was too embarrassed to ask for help from emergency services because I thought I would be judged. That night I stood on the cliff, dying seemed like the only way out. Like a lot of suicidal behaviors, the decision was driven by desperation and impulsivity. The method didn’t matter — only the end result. I was only seconds from death. By complete luck I survived that depression.

In seems people are fearful if we talk about suicide we’ll trigger risky behaviors. But if we don’t talk about it, how are we going to understand it? If we don’t understand it, how can we be compassionate and empathetic? And if we don’t treat those at risk with compassion and empathy, how do we expect them to seek help?

Most importantly, we need to make it known reaching out for help is one of the bravest and best things someone can do. I’ve heard nurses say it’s “heartbreaking” when patients die from a suicide attempt. But what’s more heartbreaking is how often I hear families say the person they lost had been “been unhappy for a long time’” or that “they tried suicide before.” We need to talk about suicide to offer people hope. The courage it takes to reach out must be recognized. 

Every suicide attempt needs to be taken seriously. People don’t kill themselves, mental illness does. The sooner we start understanding this, the sooner we can combat the stigma surrounding suicide. Decreasing stigma encourages help-seeking behaviors and leads to more widespread and compassionate treatment for those who need it. And this treatment needs to be available for everyone however long they need, not just for the people who end up with serious injuries in the emergency department.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

2k
2k
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The 3 Words Demi Lovato Said Before Her VMA Performance We All Need to Hear

105
105

Before taking stage at the MTV Video Music Awards to perform her summer hit “Cool for the Summer,” Demi Lovato’s mic picked up the star repeating some words of encouragement — words that could benefit us all.

“I am enough,” she repeated to herself. “I am enough.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 10.23.47 AM These words are powerful, especially considering how open the 23-year-old has been about her her bipolar disorder diagnosis and experiences with eating disorders. The mental health advocate was recently named a celebrity spokesperson of the Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health campaign.

In an interview this past May, Lovato told Refinery29 that personal mantras are her favorite tool for getting through the day with a mental illness. “I don’t think I could choose just one favorite one,” she told Refinery29. “I have so many favorite mantras and quotes that I put them in a book.”

Although positive self-talk can’t magically “cure” a mental illness, knowing you are enough is a good way to start feeling better.

105
105
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

This Mom Took a Selfie With Her Prescription for a Powerful Reason

914
914

Erin Jones, 36, from Nashville, Tennessee, posted a selfie on Facebook, but not just any selfie. This was an empowering declaration to the world that it’s OK to get help when you need it.

woman holding prescriptions

So this also happened yesterday,” Jones wrote on her Facebook page, called Mutha Lovin’ Autism. “I have tried living this life without prescription help. It seems to have me on top of the world one minute and rocking in the corner the next. There is no consistency. I’m done with that. Anxiety and antidepressant medication to the rescue. Sometimes, folks, we just need help.”

Jones is a former hair stylist who took a break from the trade for the last six years to homeschool and care for her four children with special needs, she told The Mighty in a Facebook message. She’s on the autism spectrum and also lives with ADD, SPD, celiac diseasehypothyroidism and hyperparathyroidism as well as anxiety and depression.

mother posing with her son

Fourteen years ago, Jones tried taking Zoloft after experiencing severe postpartum depression. It made her symptoms worse, and afterwards she was afraid to take medication for her mental health issues again.

Then, a friend of hers took her own life this past year after living with depression and addiction. Jones found herself locked in a tailspin of her own anxiety, depression and panic attacks.

“I thought I was strong enough to handle my anxiety and depression on my own until I had to dig deeper and admit that I needed help,” Jones told The Mighty. “That required more strength than any day I battled it on my own. It’s scary to admit we aren’t all right, especially when everyone depends on us to be.”

man woman and child

It was when Jones found herself begging her child to let her get him help for his anxiety that she realized she was setting the wrong example, that it was OK to hide from your mental health issue.

“I couldn’t help him until I was willing to help myself,” Jones told The Mighty. “There is no good mothering taking place while crying in the bathroom floor. He needs me well. I need me well. There is no shame in being sick. Not in our bodies. Not in our minds. There is help. We just have to ask for it.”

So Jones decided to try medication again. She found a new doctor who she believes is better able to prescribe something that will help her. On her way to fill those prescriptions, she took the selfie.

“Something had to be done,” Jones told The Mighty in a Facebook message. “I have always been open about my life, because being honest and vulnerable shows others that they aren’t alone. My hope is that they see me saying I need help and they do the same.”

Jones and The Mighty have teamed up to create the hashtag #MedicatedAndMighty to destigmatize taking medication for mental health issues. Join the movement by posting a prescription or medication selfie and using the hashtag.

Related: How One Mom’s Brave Selfie Started a New Kind of Mental Health Movement

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

914
914

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.