I want to be honest with you and admit that lately, because of my job as an advocate for children's mental health, I have been experiencing some level of frustration.
My frustration stems from the erroneous belief that mental wellness and mental illness are synonymous with each other, leading parents to believe that teaching skills for mental health only applies to those whose children suffer from mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, ADHD or autism.
I am on a mission to change this way of thinking as it impedes my work to spread awareness of the importance of mental health and its role in each child realizing their right to thrive.
To prove my point, I recently asked the question, “What word comes to mind when you hear the term “mental health” on various social media platforms. The responses were largely what I had anticipated. People in the mental health and psychology fields responded favourably, using words like "brain," "balance," "clarity," and "pleasure," while others used more negative words like "suicide," "depression," and "stigma."
What needs to be understood is that everyone has mental health, just like everyone has health. During a lifetime, not all people will experience a mental illness, but everyone will struggle or have a challenge with their mental well-being (i.e., their mental health) just like we all have challenges with our physical well-being from time to time. When we talk about mental health, we’re talking about our mental well-being: our emotions, our thoughts and feelings, our ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, our social connections, and our understanding of the world around us.
A mental illness is an illness that chronically affects the way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others. There are many different mental illnesses, and they have different symptoms that impact peoples’ lives in different ways.
When I talk about raising a child with good mental health, I mean a child who enjoys meaningful relationships, is caring and compassionate, does well in school, works hard and is responsible, and feels good about who they are. Most importantly a child who during trying times possesses the skills to navigate through the challenge and rise again, a child who is resilient.
The modern world is rapidly changing, bringing new challenges and stresses. Never before has focus on building children’s mental health been more crucial, after all our goal as parents is not just for our children to survive this life but to thrive in it.