I don’t normally write about mental health, but recently a tragedy hit so close to home, that I want to address it.
Growing up, I believed you could control your emotions. You’re sad? Get un-sad! You’re feeling down? You could have it worse. You’re anxious? Get over it. No one really spoke about the “doldrums.” I doubt we were even really allowed to wallow in self doubt or pity. Either society or perhaps even family told us we didn’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Yes, people did go to therapists and school counselors but this was always shrouded in secrecy and even embarrassment. We tried to “cure” people by ignoring them and thus ignoring the problem, sending them away or doing obscene procedures like lobotomies. You think I’m kidding? I was born in 1968! Think Rosemary Kennedy!
There still seems to be a black cloud surrounding mental illness, although if I asked a room full of 13-18 year-olds, close to 20% will admit to having specific phobias. I saw a report in NEA Today, which said that 70% of teens suffer from anxiety and depression. Our kids are going through a difficult time right now. School has changed, the pressure is unbearable. Social media has become such a big part of our lives, it’s hard to disconnect. As a teacher, I’m happy to say I do see kids reaching out for help. Adults on the other hand? Not so much.
I’ve witnessed adults spiral out of control until they’re ready to completely lose it. Their jobs are at stake and their personal lives have completely deteriorated. However on Instagram and Facebook, everything is GREAT! See! I’m happy! We get lulled into a false narrative. If you’re a guy, you’re supposed to be strong and make it work. As a woman, I have to hold it together for my family. It’s all behaviors we need to change as a society. We don’t have to suffer alone. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have an honest conversation with your boss, and she actually supported you on seeking help, needing a few mental health days or just listened? Unfortunately, (this is not paranoia), you can’t fall apart because your job could be at stake. I’ve read so many upsetting posts about teachers ready to crumble from the stress of teaching. You think it’s bullshit? You spend a day with thirty middle schoolers, if you even live to tell about. How many people can afford to just stop working?
What are we doing, people? The conversations need to start. Not when there’s another school shooting, not when a person takes their life, not when a child flunks out of school-NOW. I want people to know there’s a safe zone. We have to support one another. Is this even possible?