Children’s Mental Health Week: When Little People Have Big Worries

Imagine waking up paralyzed with fear over the simple fact that it is Monday. You get to school late as usual and slip into class, stomach in knots, head hurting, perhaps you have Tourrette’s, an invisible mental health disorder which causes you to tic, perhaps you are anxious or depressed. Maybe you have ADHD. In Canada one in five children suffer from a mental health disorder ranging from anxiety to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to bipolar depression. That’s about 2 million children and adolescents in Canada. This week is Children’s Mental Health Week. Last weekend thriftymomma was fortunate to take part in the Parents For Children’s Mental Health conference in Mississauga. The picture at left was taken with Tara Jean and Vincent, the winning dancers from last year’s So You Think You Can Dance Canada? Together the couple recreated the moving dance they performed last season conveying the complex nature of mental health disorders. The dance, both on television and last weekend performed for parents and grandparents of children with mental health disorders, makes the invisible visible. It was a moving expression of what mental illness must feel like from the inside. PCMH, a parent-run, non-profit organization will be advocating loudly to anyone with ears this week that children’s mental health funding has a long way to go and societal attitudes towards children’s mental health issues have even further. I once interviewed Barrie Evans, now the former executive director of Vanier Children’s Services in London, Ontario. Evans, who has worked tirelessly for a lifetime trying to improve children’s lives, told me then that he still was asked what he did for a living when meeting strangers. When describing his job at Vanier there would too often come the response from the other party – “Children have mental health issues?” Indeed, they do. Children are often born poor, or sick, or abandoned or neglected or prenatally exposed to chemicals, substances like drugs and alcohol. Environmental toxins too. Now imagine again that you are a kid, with some sort of mental health disorder…trying all day long in your litle kid way (meaning inexperienced at developing adult coping mechanisms) to bottle it up, fit in, keep your strangeness from showing. Whatever you do you do not want people to see how weird you feel every day, how uncomfortable in your own skin. Tylenol doesn’t work for this kind of ache. There is a test today, a math test and you are thinking what happens if I forget all of it, what happens if I have to go to the bathroom and can’t finish it, what happens if my pencil breaks? And recently all the kids are all talking about the little girl who was abducted last year in a small town nearby and what if that happened at recess or after school to you, what if someone showed up and just tried to take you? What if there’s a fire drill or a real fire? What if someone calls you stupid and that makes you cry and then everyone in the class thinks you are a baby. By lunch you are no longer hungry because your stomach hurts so bad for all the thinking you’ve been doing and you just know that as soon as you sit down Jennifer will walk across the room, ask what is in your lunch and take the best part as soon as the lunch supervisor leaves the room. No good to tell anyone because then you are a snitch and in trouble. You are a kid, in grade four perhaps and you are expected to concentrate on your lessons despite the horrible noise in your head and all around you. You want to run or scream or escape. You have maybe three more hours of this today. And it’s only Monday. Some of the bravest individuals I know are children. It’s about time we started recognizing that, supporting it with education and funding and nurturing their brave spirits.
For more information about children’s mental health visit:
http://www.pcmh.ca/ or http://www.kidsmentalhealth.ca/
if you have adopted a child and have questions about mental health issues pertaining to the adoption, visit:

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.