Talking About Mental Health Should Start Early

By Jenny Marie | Aug. 07, 2017

 

My symptoms started when I was ten years old. My heart would pound and I’d feel lightheaded. I would feel disoriented, like I was living in a fog or dream. I would be sweaty and shaky and feel as if I was going to faint. I knew these feelings weren’t normal, but I didn’t want anyone to know. I was embarrassed.

It wasn’t until my thirties that I was diagnosed with panic disorder and agoraphobia. Maybe if I’d learned more about mental health when I was a teenager, I would’ve received treatment much earlier. I could have been saved twenty years of struggling with mental illness in silence.

I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.

That’s why I became a presenter for NAMI Ending the Silence, an in-school presentation designed to teach middle and high school students about the signs and symptoms of mental illness. This conversation needs to be opened when people are young. Mental illness can be a difficult subject to discuss, but if kids are taught not to feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about mental health, there could be less stigma for the next generation.

When presenting, I discuss the warning signs of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. I explain what to do if someone notices those warning signs in themselves or a friend. I share my story. I also share my daughter’s story.

My daughter Talee was in fourth grade when she had a panic attack at school. She was so terrified it would happen again that she couldn’t make herself walk into a classroom. She was afraid of being afraid and logically, she knew she shouldn’t be. She was frustrated that she couldn’t stop her symptoms, but she still missed two weeks of school.

I knew how important it was to get her treatment. I didn’t want Talee to struggle as long as I had. Talee and I were both prescribed antidepressants to correct our imbalanced serotonin. With medication and positive coping strategies—like eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep—we had fewer panic attacks and could resume our lives.

Teaching Young People

When I first stand in front of classrooms, I’m always nervous because I’m not sure how teenagers are going to react. But once my words begin to flow, and I notice how engaged the students become, my nerves disappear. They listen intently, curious to know what the challenges are when dealing with a mental health condition. They’re always happy to hear that my experiences have made me a stronger person and that I’m no longer ashamed of having anxiety and panic attacks.

The message I try to leave with teens is that they are not alone. Millions of people around the world live with mental illness. Recovery is possible and help is available. They only need to speak up, end the silence, and get help—the sooner, the better.

 

Jenny Marie is a mental health advocate and blogger. Jenny is married and has two daughters. Her blog, Peace from Panic, can be found at https://peacefrompanic.wordpress.com/

Comments
steve bloem
Thank you for speaking up for the mentally ill. I went for years without getting an effective treatment for my bipolar 2 disorder. I am a pastor and my depression has affected my marriage and career opportunities.. People in churches kept coming to my wife and I with misconceptions about mental illness, that we finally believed it was time to write a book, which we did. It has helped many..I have been stable for many years after getting the "*****tail" of medications.
9/4/2017 9:12:20 AM

Mary alice
I suffered my first bout of depression my freshmen year of college. I fell apart. There have been more bouts since then. I so wish I could have received help when I first became ill. My life could have been so much fuller. I am so thankful I finally received treatment. Education is the key. What you are doing is wonderful. Too many of us have difficulty discussing mental illness.
8/31/2017 2:43:17 PM

Tom Glendinning
My family was in mental health starting in 1933. Dad took over in 1946. I took over and closed out the remaining facility in 1979-1987. I tried to start a new facility in North Carolina 2010-2014. Neither the state, nor social services, nor any other organization was in favor, though total beds had dropped by 30%. Treatment modalities and pharma did not cover the difference. Meanwhile, the population rose by 30%. My guess is that North Carolina screened new residents at the border very carefully.
8/30/2017 8:23:15 PM

Claudia Hauri
To Doreen Scanlon: Please find a clinical psychologist (PhD) or Licensed Mental Health Care (LMHC) person....sometimes Social Workers have this certification, for your daughter. Call your/her insurance company & get names of these people in network. If no insurance, call local Universities that have PhD programs as doctoral students becoming clinical psychologists with supervising PhD will do therapy pro bono (rro fee) or for reduced rate. . If your daughter does NOT make progress or is not comfortable with the therapist within 3-6months CHANGE to another therapist. . You are her advocate & mother. Email me via blog or otherwise for more info if needed. I am a member of NAMI. I started seeing a psychologist in 1978 because of child sexual abuse at age 8 followed by incest at age 10 from father until I had the courage to say at age 21::"No more!" In 1978 (age I realized my sadness/depression & started seeing a psychologist. The work was difficult but valuable after 2 yrs. Another depressive occurred about 3 yrs later. Same psychologist. 1 1/2 yrs later I was good. In 1984 depression came back after a robbery. This time as General Anxiety Disorder(GAD). The years passed & I continued with depressive episodes in which I was in a black hole of which I could not climbed out. Lexpro finally helped after other meds & I will take it for the rest of my life since I see mental illness just like any other illness like the T2DM for which I take Metformin. Over the yrs my depression became PTSD, like the vets who have flashbacks. This time the psychologist - same woman- had learned a new technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Processing) . The most challenging yrs ever followed, but today I am flashback free, have change in many ways & am free of a life long depression. I am no longer a stigma of having a stigma included in my list of health issues. It is what it is, & nothing of which to be ashamed. . I am a Nurse Practitioner, Educator, & Consultant & I am stigma free.
8/30/2017 4:30:11 PM

petty
Thanks for sharing wonderful ideas!! Actually i was looking for this. I was having many of doubts. But you clear my all doubts. I got what i want. Now i am going to apply your ideas!!
8/29/2017 2:38:56 AM

Vicki
Love your story! I am young adult presenter for Ending the silence in Bucks County Pa. I love sharing my story and giving back. I can relate to the nervousness you feel before the presentation and then they fade away when I engage with the audience. Thank you for sharing.
8/23/2017 8:46:19 PM

gissel Reynosa
Learning from lessons at nami helps me to understand my health condition and getting involved for others to be knowleable of what it is to have a mental illness
8/20/2017 11:00:37 PM

gissel Reynosa
Love this program would like to learn more from it....
8/20/2017 10:58:00 PM

Brenda Stubbs
I am very interested in mental health across the entire lifespan, in both my professional capacity and for personal reasons. I have struggled with depression since my early teens (I'm now 49) and my 15 yr old son has struggled for many years now, too.
8/15/2017 4:26:29 PM

Jenny Marie
Thank you all for sharing and for the kind words. Eva, I'm not in North Carolina, but the Ending the Silence presentation is nationwide. Maybe you could contact your local NAMI to see if they offer this program. Thank you again for your nice comments, it's encouraging, and I appreciate that so much! Jenny
8/15/2017 2:04:00 PM

Traci halpin
Excellent article Jenny!!! I bet your daughter is so proud of you!
8/10/2017 9:38:15 PM

Eva F Spencer
I love what you are doing for the younger generations!!!
Are you in North Carolina, do you visit every city in the United States?
8/8/2017 7:41:15 PM

Doreen Scanlon
My daughtèr is suffering from depression.dhe was under doctors care. Howevershe had her on Klonopin too long. Now she is weaning her off with Valium. She has been decreasing her dose every 2 weeks. She will be off completely. I'm worried about her recovery and what to expect and how to react. Any help available for both of us. She is not working
8/8/2017 4:57:52 PM

Lizanne Corbit
I couldn't agree more. Wonderful to see reads like this. Our future belongs to the younger generations and the more we have these discussions, the more we begin to open things up to real conversation, understanding, and change.
8/7/2017 6:25:54 PM

Diane
Thank you for sharing your story and your daughter's. I too wish I had known about mental illness and what to do when I was a teen. I knew something was very wrong, but when my guidance counselor tried to find help for me, my mother denied there was a problem and made me stop seeing the school psychologist. I found some help later as an adult and finally nearly 20 yrs ago now, got a proper diagnosis and treatment. Many years of depression and anxiety until I was helped. I commend you for being out there and bringing awareness to the students and hopefully their parents will be on board.
8/7/2017 5:28:45 PM

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