In what the media have deemed her “biggest speech as the Duchess of Cambridge” to date, Kate Middleton addressed school leaders and mental health experts at a Place2Be Headteacher Conference called “My Head is Too Full.”
Place2Be is a UK-based nonprofit that provides emotional and therapeutic services in schools. Their services reach 105,000 children, addressing issues such as bullying, domestic violence, neglect and trauma. In her speech, the Duchess addressed the importance of early intervention for mental health.
“But of course, many children are not so lucky,” she said in her speech. “Since beginning my work in areas like addiction, for example, I have seen time and time again that the roots of poor mental health in adulthood are almost always present in unresolved childhood challenges… Parents, teachers and other school staff need the tools to help these young people early in their lives. And the earlier, the better. It is proven that early action prevents problems later in life.”
According to Mental Health America, those who are exposed to adverse childhood events like abuse or neglect are 2.6 times more likely to have depression, five times more likely to have serious alcohol problems and 17 times more likely to have learning or behavioral problems. Early intervention can be the key to mental health recovery.
“Many children – even those from stable, happy homes – are finding that their heads are just too full,” the Duchess said. “It is our duty, as parents and as teachers, to give all children the space to build their emotional strength and provide a strong foundation for their future.”
Because our mental health is always with us — and because tattoos can be a permanent reminder of where we’ve been and where we want to go — we asked our Mighty community to send pictures of their ink inspired by mental health challenges.
If you think the tattoos are amazing, the stories behind them are even better.
Take a look:
1. “This is to remind me that it’s not my fault. Seratonin is lacking in my brain. We are all warriors in this fight against mental illness.” — Paige Johnson
3. “Tattoos are so important to my mental health. They’re how I give myself reminders I wouldn’t believe otherwise. I chose to leave that mark there, to leave a moment of hope on myself. I don’t trust hope when it comes from other people, so the self-direction and permanence of tattoos goes a long way.” — Olivia James
4. “I’m not an expert on pain and I’m not an expert on healing, but I do know this: Both are part of life.” — Alyse Ruriani
5. “‘Stars can’t shine without the darkness.’ Even when things in my head aren’t OK, it won’t be dark for long because I’m a shining star in my own right.” — Erica Marie
6. “I’ll never give up, I’m a fighter.” — Jenna Pleasants
7. “This is the tattoo I’m proudest of.” — Kris Lindsey
8. “Pi, a mathematical constant, reminds me that even when my world feels like it’s falling apart, there’s still a constant in the world. The semicolon reminds me I need to keep going even when I don’t feel like I can or don’t want to. A Bible verse reminds me of the big picture I sometimes fail to see when I’m depressed.” — Julianne Leow
9. “Ataraxia — it means ‘tranquility of the mind.’” — Jacklyn Ashley
10. “Covering a scar. My reminder that no matter how deep the depression gets, I have reasons for my heart to keep beating” — Courtney Bowles
11. “The bottom tattoo is for eating disorder recovery. I survived anorexia when I was 14. The top tattoo is for my struggle and recovery from postpartum mental illness. It tried to take my life, but I’m still here and now I’m full of joy and thriving!” — Alicia Nelsen
12. “Reminds me that my post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks and all the pain are in the past. And my story is just beginning.” — Kimberly Elizabeth King
13. “I have post-traumatic stress disorder, severe general and social anxiety disorders and chronic severe depression. I also have a brain injury. The trauma started at 7 and went until I was 33. I have this to remind me that my heart is still beating and my stars light my way. I’m never without love, even alone.” — Kimberlea Halliwell
14. “My husband got this tattoo for me to show his support for my mental illness. I have bipolar 2, generalized and social anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.” — Jennifer Rushton
15. “A reminder to love yourself as much as you love others.” — Tiffany Davidson
16. “I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression. This tattoo represents the song ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley. It helps put life into perspective.” — Sarah Gilbert
17. “This hummingbird was tattooed shortly after three months of hospitalization for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. It reminds me that it’s OK to fly. (And this is my PTSD service dog I received shortly after!)” — Kerri Symes
19. “A line from the ‘Firefly’ theme song, reminding me that ‘they’ (bipolar, anxiety, etc.) cannot keep me forever and one day I will be free to fly.” — Kal Gibbs Winters
20. “My sister and I got matching tattoos last year – a combination of a semicolon and a butterfly with our fingerprints as the wings, representing both of our struggles with depression as well as many people we both know who have various mental health problems.” — Rachel Dillon
21. “It says strength from one direction; when you look at it upside down it says serenity.” — Becky Brainard
22. “This one is a quote by Barbara J Winter: ‘When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.’ ” — Jesus Arroyo
23. “I’ve always been drawn to butterflies. And when I was going through difficult times, my mom reminder me of ‘the butterfly effect’ — one flap make a huge difference. My mantra became ‘flap flap.’” –Shelley Field
24. “Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with major depression. In honor of that anniversary, I got my first tattoo. H.O.P.E. stands for: Hold On Pain Ends. The semicolon means my story is not over.” — Kristin Lynn
25. “I had postpartum anxiety and OCD after my son, and after overcoming it I got this tattoo in honor of the semicolon project! That I chose to continue my sentence instead of end it.” — Ethan Lexie Clouse
26. “Recurrent major depression and anxiety. I got this after my first hospitalization. It’s my way of owning it rather than feeling shame.” — Tasha Moreno
27. “This tattoo represents my emotions during my worst time here on Earth. I was dealing with manic depressive disorder without treatment. I had no idea how to handle it. During rehab I had to participate in group art therapy. I was told to draw the emotions I felt in my heart. Red for anger, grey for sadness, blue for sorrow, green for hope and lastly yellow for happiness. I kept my drawing and one year later, I had it tattooed on me to remind how I never want my heart broken in that many pieces again. Every glimpse sends chills down my spine and a big smile on my face knowing I’m better off and loving who I am now.” — BrookeTaylor St. Louis
28. “Tattoo for my son who has OCD, anxiety, ASD and Tourette’s. His favorite animal is an elephant because they may be huge, but they’re gentle.” — Christy Vogel
29. “My phoenix feather rising from the ashes.” — Siân Couch
30. “Celtic sun, inspired by depression and seasonal affective disorder.” — Cherice Marie
31. “My brother had schizophrenia. He passed away 13 years ago at age 22. He taught me so much about acceptance, tolerance, patience and unconditional love.” — Krista Dietsch Furgala
32. “‘Stay strong beautiful, things will get better. It may be stormy now but it can’t rain forever.’” — Beth Ann Baker
33. “I got this to remember myself that even though today may be a bad day, I still have hope.” — Hannah Helmers
34. “I suffer from reoccurring and resistant depression and anxiety. I got this tattoo, an angel symbol that means ‘choose life,’ to remind me not to listen to or act on suicidal thoughts. I can’t control the negative voices in my head, but I can choose not to listen to them.” — Cheryl Joyce
35. “I had this done just after I had the lightbulb moment that inspired me to recover.” — Natice Aimee Duncan
*Some responses have been edited and shortened for brevity
Editor’s note: In a previous version of this article, 36 tattoos were listed.
You didn’t know me, and I highly doubt you even remember me at this point, but I will remember you for a long time.
I suffer from, among other things Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. It stems from events I’ve experienced while living on the streets homeless as well as events that happened in my childhood. A symptom of my PTSD is anxiety, very bad anxiety, especially in unstable family situations. For the past five days before meeting you in line, I was a patient in a psychiatric unit. I’d been experiencing flashbacks and extreme anxiety and wanted to hurt myself. To guarantee my own safety, I had myself admitted.
I completed my treatment at the hospital, and I figured I would just go home until my already scheduled intake at the county mental health center. My plans didn’t quite go as expected. My living circumstances suddenly changed, I had no resources, and no one could help me other then to direct me to an anxiety-inducing shelter. I was ready to give everything up. I started making my way to the CVS to fill my scripts and take them all.
A friend offered me a room at in her house in Wisconsin, but I had to figure out how to get 13 miles across the bridge from New Jersey to Philadelphia to catch the bus the next day.
Wait. Next day? What am I supposed to do tonight?
How was I supposed to get to Philadelphia? I felt done. I had the perfect chance to make things right in a new state, but it was just out of reach. “That’s it,” I said to myself. Of course, you didn’t know all this from standing in from of me at the pharmacy counter.
You dropped off your prescriptions and sat down to wait, then I did the same. My friend called while I was sitting there to tell me she could get me a bus ticket tonight; I just had to find a way to Philadelphia.
Normally I would object to people listening in on my phone conversations, but this time I’ll make an exception. I don’t know what inspired you to offer me, a complete stranger, a ride to the bus station, but you did.
I’ve been through pitfalls and black holes and haven’t found a lot of people who would be able to help me, but you, a person who didn’t know me, offered a space in your car to get across the bridge.
I just want to say thank you. You saved my life that day.
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 Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.
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If you need to talk, call 800-273-TALK (8255) for free, confidential, 24/7 help.
Last December, I began my nine-month journey in a psychiatric unit. I gained a lot of knowledge over those nine months, but not everything I learned is what you might expect. The end goal was to gain skills to help us cope in the “real world,” but I didn’t realize in the beginning how much would go into it.
Here are some of the unexpected things I took away from my experience:
1. I could laugh. I laughed from my belly, and it was an honest laugh that gave me a small, yet real, glimmer of hope.
2. The friendships I made were unlike any other — I don’t think I could recreate them if I tried.
3. Being honest and open with staff led to priceless moments, like when a one-on-one shower turned into a “Frozen” singalong.
4. Therapy isn’t a walk in the park. It’s tough, but it’s worth it.
5. The value of a cup of tea is greater than you might think.
6. Weird talents and funny stories will not stay hidden for long! Believe me, they all came out at some point.
The Mighty wants to hear about your experiences in psychiatric hospitals. 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.
I used to feel ashamed of my mental health condition.
Now, I refuse to let stigma and stereotypes dictate how I feel about myself.
If you stigmatize me, that’s yourignorance, not my truth. Stigma is dated, cruel and just plain wrong.
People with mental illnesses are not less-than. They are not damaged. They are not what you see on TV, the news or in movies. They are people: brothers, mothers, fathers and daughters. They are valuable, vibrant, brilliant members of your community. They are one in four people, not some freaky monster you’ve never met.
I have an awesome, successful, happy life. I also have a mental health condition. Big deal. Get over it. Just because I’m different, doesn’t mean I’m broken.
Shame is toxic to the human spirit. I’ve let it go and replaced it with pride and acceptance. You can shame me all you want and have a big ol’ shame party, but it’s my choice whether or not I attend. (I’m always busy with better, more important things to do than sit with shame.) Shaming yourself and others is exhausting — I’ll be by the pool with joy and acceptance if you want to join us.
So, get educated about mental illness and come over to the cool side. Here are five reasons why I refuse to be ashamed:
1. It’s not my fault.
I didn’t choose this. It’s not a character flaw or a negative personality trait. I’m not guilty of something. I don’t have a mental health condition because I’m weak, don’t try hard enough, don’t have enough willpower, eat too many donuts, like the attention or haven’t read enough “Oprah.” It’s my brain being my brain.
For the record, though, I eat healthy, and I’ve read a lot of “Oprah.”
Depression is extremely different from normal sadness. Anxiety is not “just worrying.” People who have mental health conditions can’t just snap out of it. Know the facts.
2. My brain is actually awesome.
I’ve grown to love my brain. Yeah, I have anxiety — I’m a human sponge for everyone’s feelings and so sensitive I’ll cry during a Cheerios commercial. But the ability to feel so much is also a gift. I have an extraordinary amount of empathy. Where my brain might lack, it makes up for in creativity. I’d rather trudge through mud and then dance in seas of glittery stars than walk on flat, easy road all the time. It’s who I am, and I’m learning to appreciate the mud.
3. Everyone’s mind is different.
No one thinks about unicorns skipping on rainbows all day. People with mental health conditions are not super strange aliens from a far off galaxy. We all have problems and struggles in life. No one is perfect. No one has a unicorn mind all the time.
4. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, and now I can help others.
It takes a lot of bravery to get help for a mental health condition and stick with treatment. It takes a lot strength to tell your story for the millionth time, advocate for yourself when your care is crappy, try a bunch of medicines until you find the right one, put up with everyone telling you what you should do, have your claims denied by insurance companies and feel like you’re being treated like a child when you have a master’s degree.
People say hope is right in front of you, but depression is a blindfold. It takes so much strength to keep searching in the dark.
Recovery is sort of like making an huge collage. You’re always looking, finding and pasting things that help you. But it’s a constant project that takes a lot of energy and willpower. I’m proud that I’m speaking out (not an easy decision) and trying to help others as we build our collages together.
5. My pain has become my power.
I’m not ashamed of my pain. I think it’s made me a more compassionate person. It’s given me wisdom and inspiration. I believe pain can be like a question mark, asking us, “What will you do with me? Destruct or create?” It’s energy we can transform and put to use. It becomes our power. It becomes our flashlight to hand to others who are still tripping in the darkness. When we break down and lose everything, we can also rebuild into stronger, wiser and more beautiful versions of ourselves. I believe this pain can be an asset.
What are you proud of? I challenge you to join me and let shame go.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Around one year ago today, I made an impulsive decision. I tried for the second time to take my own life. This was back before I had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, so my untreated psychotic symptoms were making getting through the day seem impossible.
My first suicide attempt had been in a psychiatric hospital. This one was different.
It was premeditated. I wrote a note. I lay down and after about 20 minutes, I began to have trouble breathing.
That’s when I realized it. This was serious. I was going to die.
So I called the paramedics.
Before they reached me, a public safety officer responded to my call. Scott, who I had met with many times, came into my dorm room to find me half-unconscious and on the floor, a suicide note grasped in my fist. This wasn’t the first time Scott had responded to one of my mental health crises — in fact, during my time in college, he had responded to every single one. He had driven me to the emergency department during all crises that didn’t involve the paramedics.
“What did you do?” he asked me. His voice was shaking so badly he could barely speak. He called poison control. I heard him ask desperately into the phone if I was going to live. Poison control told Scott to engage with me and to not let me fall asleep.
Scott was crying. He sat down on the floor with me. Talking with me, giving me reasons to hold on. I heard the ambulance from what must have been a mile away. When they arrived they loaded me onto a stretcher. Scott held my hand as I was rushed into the back of the rescue vehicle.
Then, as I was being loaded into the ambulance, he told me something that would empower me to make it through every depressive episode, and legitimize every time I asked for help.
“We’re all going be here to see you graduate,” he said, gripping my hand, “You’ll learn to live with this. Get better so we can see you walk across that stage.”
I was only a sophomore, but he had faith in me. He had faith that I would put this illness behind me. That I would learn to live with it and thrive.
Now, this is what I want him to know:
Put simply, you saved my life. You’ve been the only person, after 10 years in mental health treatment, who has told me something that resonated deeply enough to save my life. My treatment has mostly been a lot of breathing exercises, dialectical behavior therapy, crises plans, medication and a lot of doctors visits. But the salvation you’ve given me was a simple one. You gave me a foundation to believe in myself.
You see Scott, we got to know each other in a different way. You know me through late-night conversations in the front of a police cruiser, my symptoms and what my crises look like. You know about my battles and how after 10 years of preoccupying myself with starvation, self-harm, responsibility, drug abuse and apathy, I thought I wanted to die.
But on the night I really tried, you shocked me out of my fog of self-destruction and into recovery. You saved my life. I will always remember that one sentence. It reached me in ways nothing ever had. No matter how bad my suicidal ideation might get, you managed to prevent me from ever trying again. Your response to what could’ve been the worst decision I had ever made was absolutely perfect. Someday I will walk across that stage, diploma in hand. How great living will be knowing I had tried to die, but chose recovery instead. Every accomplishment after college graduation, I will thank you for saving my life. Every time I kiss my fiance goodnight, every time I make a phone call to my dad, or visit my mom, every time I congratulate my brother on his accomplishments, I will thank you for what you’ve done. And even though you’ve moved away to a new town and have a new job, I hope you know what you did for me that night. Because of you I have a lifetime to love and be loved, I have a lifetime to learn, to experience, to laugh and cry, to smile and feel and taste. I have a lifetime to live and a lifetime to breathe.