Updated: Feb 19, 2020
While the scenarios in this reading are true, no names are used and if names are used, they have been changed from the original. While many of the discussed topics are triggering and sensitive, please proceed with caution and awareness of your own mental health needs.
There are a lot of reasons why people choose their career path. Sometimes out of the desire to make money. Sometimes out of the need to feel important. Others, out of the goodness of their heart. Maybe all of the above.
There are a million reasons for why I chose to become a pediatric mental health nurse, all of which we can save for a discussion at a later date. Before you move forward with reading the story, know this: I love my career. While there are times when it may sound quite the opposite, rest assured that I would never change a thing. I would go back and do it all over again if I had to. To answer another question I’ve been asked, ‘is it worth sacrificing your mental health to save someone else’s?” the short, simple, and truthful answer will always be yes.
Some of the following situations are heart-wrenching and may be triggering so if you need a break from the reading, take one. I could preach to you about self-care and about how if you have trauma maybe you should stop reading now, but maybe reading it will you help you to know you’re not alone. Maybe it will open your eyes to the truth about mental health and the severity of the impact it has on children. You could be like so many I’ve met and turn the other cheek; think these things aren’t real or that they don’t happen here. You could have the not my kid mentality; think this would never happen; my kid knows better. But let me make it very clear to you that mental health does not discriminate. I have provided care to patients of all socioeconomic classes from the homeless to the rich. I have provided care across the lifespan and while pediatrics is my specialty, working with children also means working with their caregivers. I've provided care for depression, anxiety, personality disorders. I’ve provided care for mania, schizophrenia, OCD. I’ve taken care of prisoners on death row. I’ve taken care of three-year-old children with mental health diagnoses. Mental health disorders do not care how old you are or where you came from or what color your skin is or how much money you have. It affects everyone, whether you have personally experienced it or know someone who has. I will say it one more time: mental health disorders do not discriminate.
So if you’re one of those people who are going to read this and judge each patients story or think to yourself this is crazy, you might as well stop reading now. My intentions are to share my experiences and spread the importance of understanding mental health. I want you to be able to open your eyes and realize what is happening and what you can do to help. I want everyone to know they’re not alone. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, you’re not alone. Every one in five people in the United States suffers from a mental health disorder. So why so many still feed into the stigma of mental health being a sign of weakness, not real, a need for attention, etc is beyond me. I’ll never forget the words from the mouth of one of my twelve-year-old patients. I was getting ready to discharge her from the hospital and she was so happy to go home. When I walked into the room to get her ready to leave, she was hysterically crying. I asked what had happened. She was just excited to go. Through her tears, she said, “I want to go home, but I can’t go back to school.” I asked her why and she said, “if I was here because I had cancer or heart surgery or even a broken arm, people would be sending me get well cards and stupid flowers. But I’m here for my mental health. So no one says anything to my face. They just talk about me behind my back and think I’m crazy.”
I wasn’t sure what to say at first because the truth is, she was right.
Coming from a small town, everyone knows everyone. The amount of support that the communities bring when someone is sick is always incredible to see. But never once have I seen an outpouring of support for someone who was depressed or addicted to drugs or bipolar. What’s even worse is that I don’t think people would even know how to help in such situations.
There is one suicide every 12 minutes in the United States. Yep. You read that right. I’ve been to one memorial for a person who completed suicide. It was the only time in my life thus far had our small town ever brought such a topic to the forefront. That was years ago and we have not had one for any other suicide since. I was hopeful that we were moving in a positive direction. That talking about mental health awareness was finally coming out of the woodwork and people were going to start understanding. Yet, here we are. While I have seen the topic talked about more on social media and feel like some adults are finally having a better understanding, there is still so much more that needs done.
There is so much more that needs discussed. And furthermore, we need to do more than just talk about mental health. We need to act! We need to make a change. We need to move forward in the process of breaking this stigma surrounding mental health and I hope that this blog will do that.
Feel free to email me any questions or comments. I’m always here to help!