Childhood Mental Illness

Looking back on my childhood and teen years I can see the warning signs of a mental illness. If my mother had been a little more vigilant she could have gotten me and my sister help and could have avoided future heartache.

The first time I was depressed was at age 9. I didn't want to wash myself and get dressed. I was very melancholy and down emotionally. It lasted most of time I was nine years old. My mother thought I was being rebellious and lectured me harshly. I wish she could have taken me to the doctor and maybe I would have gotten some help. The second time I was depressed was when I turned 15. I nearly flunked out of school. I was very depressed. I wasn't suicidal but it was hard for me to get up and go to school each day. Math and science classes were very confusing. I just couldn't get it. I didn't know what was wrong with me. Again my mother was clueless. I don't even think she realized how close I came to flunking out of school or repeating the 10th grade. I think I barely made it through somehow. My teachers didn't seem to care either. They saw that I was doing poorly but didn't let my mother know or didn't seem to care. I think my sister had early signs too in her childhood and teen years but she was so quiet most of the time I think my mother thought no news is good news. I felt very lonely during this period. I was lonely most of my childhood and teen years. I wasn't popular and was used to alot of teasing by other students. I just put my head down and tried to get an education. I liked learning for the most part ; especially writing. I read alot and had an active fantasy life. If my mother or teachers had noticed the difference in my grades and behaviour maybe I would have gotten some help.

My mother was raising the three of us on her own and didn't have many resources. I think that there should be a way to integrate a program in school to ferret out kids who are depressed. Doing a quick survey and targeting the students who make the most alarming answers could help. Informing parents and teachers of the warning signs of severe depression could also help. I think it's difficult because teenagers tend to be moody and depressed. It's difficult to ferret out the really severe cases. Even doing a day where mental illness is talked about would help, I think.

Mentall Illness is stigmatized severely in this country. Depression and suicide is rarely talked about among young people. This should change. Suicide prevention should be a priority in middle and high schools. When Columbine happened there was alot talked about as far as kids who get teased and bullied. Not much has changed since then. Oprah had a day where high school kids talked about their feelings and struggles with teasing and bullying. I think schools should have days like that at least once or twice a year. I think if this had happened when I was in school I would have reached out for help and not felt like I had to endure what I was feeling.

You see, I was told not to complain. We didn't have much. Sometimes we couldn't afford toilet paper and deoderant. It was very tough. If I complained I was acting spoiled. I was told to shut up and put up. I was told not to ask for more than what I needed. I was treated like a burden instead of a joy. I always felt that if I spoke up I was making trouble. It didn't occur to me to talk about my depressions. I didn't realize how depressed I was until after I pulled out of it. Then my sister experienced severe depression and had her first manic episode. She was hospitalized for a while and went on medication. I was in denial thinking that my problem wasn't the same as my sister's. I didn't want to have a mental illness, especially when I saw her struggles. I never dreamed that I would experience the same struggles.

I think parents should talk to their kids and be there for them. They should tell their kids that it's o.k. to be open with their feelings. Parents should not just accept silence as a sign that things are going alright. So many parents are shocked at a child's suicide or violent behaviour because they just didn't talk to their kids.

I worry about my other sister's kids. The three older kids seem to be doing alright. The younger five are still growing. I think at least one of these kids may suffer from mental illness. Mental illness is hereditary. My sister does have mild symptoms of bipolar disorder. She gets hypomanic and she gets depressed. She has never been on medication and self medicates. If I told her she was bipolar she would be insulted. She is in total denial when it comes to her kids possibly having a mental illness. I don't know how to connect to the kids because I don't talk to them. After my older sister died they came to town last year but that's the last time I saw them.

I hope my sister will be involved with her children enough to know when there's a problem. She homeschools the younger kids so maybe being around them alot will give her a head's up if there is something wrong. I just think she is in denial about the possibility of one or more of her kids developing a mental illness. This kind of blinders given our family medical history is dangerous to have. She could miss the early signs that I described earlier and not be able to head off a serious mental illness.