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Dear doctor, psychiatrist, occupational therapist, nurse, manager, health care assistant or soon-to-be any of the above,

So you want to work with young people with mental health problems? Or maybe you already do. Either way, welcome to the wonderful world of child and adolescent mental health services.

You’re likely to be, or have been, met by a group of young people. Some of whom will be kind and nice and some of whom who will not. Don’t rule any of them out just yet. Even the nicest, kindest and friendliest people on this ward might have days where their illness gets the best of them. Mental illness blocks the light and makes pleasantries difficult sometimes.

If you’re boasting your experience is based on the fact you’ve “survived being a teenager” — stop. Yes, we are “average teenage,” but with acute and chronic illness that — were it anywhere else in the body — might lead to hospital tubes and wires. If today we’re ignoring you, please don’t take it personally. We aren’t ignoring you; we’re trying to ignore the demons you can’t see. Some illnesses can’t be helped by tubes and wires.

You’re going to work long hours with, I won’t lie, people who sometimes wished you didn’t bother. You’re an occupational therapist pushing a new group, a psychiatrist cutting a medication or a nurse saying no to leave. You might be sworn at. You might be insulted. But we need you to keep trying. We are the ones who’ve seen it all. Collectively, we’ve had abusers, attackers, family issues, health issues — the works. Don’t expect to be told you’re doing a good job everyday, but know you’ve done a good job when one of us can go our own way. Even if you can’t “cure” us, you can help us open the box, rearrange the pieces and fill in the gaps.

We need you to keep us safe until we can do it for ourselves. One day at a time. We can be unreasonable, illogical and our illnesses can be consuming, but we need to know, even when we shout, you’ll still be back in the morning. We need you to tell us you’re trying your hardest to make it OK.

So…are you in or out?

Follow this journey on The Upside Down Chronicles.

The Mighty is asking for the following: Write a piece to a specific group or person, telling them what you wish they knew about your mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to 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.

Originally published: October 19, 2015
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