Let’s just suppose you are ten years old and you live with your grandparents. You have been living with them for the past two years because both of your parents died from a drug overdose. You go to school every day with other children who live with their parents and wonder… why are my parents gone? There are days when you get angry and days when you get sad. Sometimes you don’t eat and sometimes you just wish you were dead. If you were dead you would be with mom and dad. You don’t really know if that’s true but your Uncle said they had gone to Heaven, and some day you would see them again when you die.
But today is Tuesday, and it is writing day. During class the teacher asks that everyone write a short paragraph about what you did over the weekend, and you start to feel a very dark cloud taking over you. You are having a hard time breathing. You start thinking you can’t do this. You start to write and you just begin to cry. The teacher asks you what is wrong and you become so embarrassed you run out of the classroom. As you run down the hall other students are looking at you so you leave the school. You run home to the house you used to live in. What you see startles you. It is strangers laughing in the yard. Just then, you stop and you remember mommy and daddy are gone. A mix of disbelief and hatred for what has happened to you takes over. You walk off to Grammy and Pappy’s house sobbing again.
This past weekend was too difficult to write about, it was too difficult to think about. You see, on this weekend two years ago, mommy and daddy died and you found them and you couldn’t help them.
This is a real story and not so unlike thousands of other children’s journeys through their complicated grief. Children are resilient and with the right types of help they can move on through their journey and live their lives. While compassion, understanding and love help, they are not enough. Children need to learn new skills that can reinforce their resilience and their reason for living.
During National Mental Health Month, as we support the many problems children face with mental illness, let’s never forget that they are all our children, they are our future and like all those who supported us along the early journey of our lives, we can all be their support today and every day.
Support your local Mental Health Center so that no child ever has to travel their heart breaking journey alone. Mental Illness can happen anytime to anyone, and yes, even children. We can turn these stories around but we need to start today and continue efforts every day, not just during some month that reminds us to pay attention to the cause.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the Mobile Crisis Response Team at (800) 688-3544. For treatment or counseling appointments call The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester at (603) 668-4111 option 4.
To support community mental health services for children, go to; www.mhcgm.org/donate/