Mental Health: Your Path To Hope

Mental Health: Your Path To Hope

Introduction:

Welcome to my blog!  I hope that through this blog you can learn a little bit about mental health and from the experience our family had with a teenager who struggled in silence with anxiety and depression.  I hope through this blog, I can give you the vocabulary and tools you need to feel comfortable in telling someone if you are struggling.  Or, maybe you recognize a problem with a friend, and you can alert someone to get them help.  

Our Story:

Our oldest child headed off to college in August of 2017.  He was planning on studying Engineering, had been recruited to play basketball, and was going to college in a great city.  He had a “social media perfect” future ahead of him. After just 3 weeks, we had to pick him up and bring him home because of severe anxiety and depression that he was dealing with in silence.  My husband and I had no idea how badly he was struggling.  Partly because we did not know enough to ask, and partly because our son did not recognize that what he was experiencing was something he should seek help for.

Our son at 18 years felt he needed to “handle it on his own”.  Quick question: if you had an asthma attack, broken ankle, intense pain in your side, would you “handle it on your own”? I don’t think so. The first thing I want you to understand is that your mental health is just as medically valid as your physical health and it demands the same attention.  If your mind races and your thoughts are negative or scary….that needs to be evaluated.  If you are overwhelmed by sadness and have no idea why?  That needs to be evaluated.  Think of it as your mind’s alarm to you that something is not quite right. . When you go to the doctor for a sore throat, they will ask “do you have any other symptoms; stomach ache, fever?”  Well, negative thoughts, intense fear when you walk into a room of new people, inability to get yourself out of bed because of sadness…..these are all symptoms that need to be addressed….just as important as physical symptoms.

As a family, we never discussed our mental health in general…I honestly never even thought about it.  I often asked our kids, “How was school? Or,  how was practice? In hindsight I wish I had asked, “What do you think about as you fall asleep? What makes you nervous? Are you happy?”  These questions may have sparked a conversation that needed to be had. Our son, Jack (who is doing great, and has learned the tools he needs to have a healthy mind) explained to us that he did not realize that the chaos in his mind was not normal, he thought everyone felt that way. To make matters worse, Jack compared himself to the “happiness” portrayed on his social media feed and felt even worse.  “Everyone else is having such a great time at school, how come I feel so terrible?”

Things you should know: 

  1. Your mind should be able to have quiet moments, and you should be able to “quiet the noise” we all experience, when you need to.  If you cannot do that, please tell someone. There are many ways to learn how to help with that.  It could be as simple as learning a few tricks to refocus or maybe you need a little bit more help, but: YOU CAN FEEL BETTER.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by sadness, fear of social situations, or have body image concerns, please tell someone.  There is also a confidential number you can call….1-855-654-6735 NJ Hopeline or go to http://ucnj.org for a list of emergency services.
  2. Not everything is as it appears on social media. No one is going to post crying in their pillow because they are sad or homesick, right? No one is going to post being alone in their dorm room because they have not made friends right away, correct? And please know the tricks and tools like airbrush, and Photoshop are used almost automatically. Just realize that you are not looking at reality, but what someone wants people to THINK is their reality.
  3. I am sure you have noticed lately the numbers of public figures announcing their struggles with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction.  The conversation is important and people are realizing it needs to be addressed.  It takes courage to admit when you are battling something, anything.  Mental Health disturbances are no different.  Having the courage to own your struggle and the willingness to admit that to others, may just help another person who may be struggling as well. Please check out:  https://youtu.be/rQDaeGSWrLY, Kevin Love’s story, #kevinlove  #letstalkaboutmentalhealth).  There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, just as you would not be embarrassed to tell someone you have a sore throat!  The more we talk about our mental health, the more comfortable the topic becomes.
  4. You absolutely do not, should not, and I hope will not try to “handle things on your own.” My son thought that is what he needed to do. Please, just as you would not treat your own strep throat or broken ankle, this too needs professional attention.

Please think about what I have written, pay attention to yourself….you deserve it!

For more information about A Path To Hope, please visit my website at www.apathtohope.org, Also follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/apathtohope, twitter @apathtohope1, or on instagram @apathtohope

TIPS and TRICKS: 

If you are not comfortable talking to your parent, guardian, or a trusted adult about this, write it down and give it to an adult.  A quick note “I need to talk to you, I have been really sad”, “I am so anxious all the time”, “I need some help” or simply “I need to talk to someone about the way I feel.” You could even tell your school nurse or a teacher. Just please tell SOMEONE.  #youarenotalone  #talkaboutmentalhealth  #howtoaskforhelp

If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide call 1 800-273-8255 or go to http://ucnj.org for a list of resources.

Mental Health | Suicide Prevention

Holly O’Connell

Be Well

hollyoconnell@apathtohope.org

484 879 6404      

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