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Remove the mask from Childhood Mental Illness

We had been contemplating all weekend if we share this post or not.  Its personal and often something most of us keep behind closed doors.  But Bronson & Beau started for these reasons and we know we are not the only ones going through situations like ours. 

It’s one thing reducing the stigma around adults and mental illness, but I think that there is a bigger one around children and mental health.  Too much judgement not only on the child but on the parents too.

Our daughter had a massive panic attack on Friday afternoon.  Mid netball game she left the court and we had to get her home.  The panic in her voice when she calls for me is heartbreaking.  I know that panic, I’ve been there, but she is 9 years old and doesn’t understand what is going on. 

She takes long deep breaths and she’s not sure if she is going to be sick or pass out, she wants to rock her body to stop the feeling but then can’t move at all because it makes it feel worse.  She cries and wants to be held but then she can’t stand anything touching her, she’s confused, frightened, and keeps apologising, and you can’t just make her SNAP OUT OF IT.

You have to roll with it, assure them they will be ok, and this feeling will pass, you must be the ‘calm’ for them. The only place she feels safe is sitting in the shower with the warm water running on her and Mumma in the room, no talking, just a few reminders that I’m still here.  This can go on for 45 mins or more.  Every 10 mins or so she will try and stand up but the motion sets it off again and back down she sits. It’s exhausting for the both of us.  Its not a tantrum or looking for attention, she would never give up a game of netball and trade it for this.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.  You can’t make this stuff up, kids do not know enough about mental health to create what is going on in their head.  Mikayla would give anything not to feel the way she does.  Over the last few days she’s had anxiety about thinking she is going to be sick like she was on Friday, its not a place she wants to go back to. 

What else can we do?  Many use their family doctor as the first point of call.  Doctors are great, they help you move in the right direction and give assistance in the right areas and can also suggest coping strategies for both the child and the parent.  But if your child is like our daughter, talking to people she doesn’t know is out of the question.  So, the best way for us to help her is to get as much knowledge on childhood anxiety and depression and in turn, teach it to her.  We (her parents) are her world, it is our job to keep her safe, including from the monsters in her mind.

Beyondblue have some great reading, tips and help on there Healthy Families site (Click here for the link) and don’t be afraid to speak up for them, so many children are misunderstood.