“I feel so weak for having to go the hospital after my heart attack.” That is not a phrase we hear often, if ever. If someone has a heart attack, it is common sense to go to the hospital, to get whatever help is needed. Everyone knows that if they see someone having a heart attack, they immediately call 911 and get help.
But what about a panic attack or depression? Would you know to immediately get someone help if you saw someone who is depressed? What about if it was yourself? What if it was your child?
As a parent, I am often worried about getting judged by other parents. I know that friends of mine have the same concerns or are afraid about their children being labeled and so they don’t want to ask for help. Instead, we just assume that everything will be ok, that we can make our kids work harder, focus more, and behave better on our own.
It sounds cliché, but asking for help makes you strong. Asking for help takes courage. Knowing you need that help shows an awareness that you cannot do everything on your own. While my husband and I wanted to believe we could raise our kids without input from anyone else, we are not experts in everything. We learned early on that we would need help, and we were not afraid to ask for it. Why would we not want to get as much assistance and guidance available when it comes to mental health, especially the mental health of our children? Our kids deserve all the resources and support available to them. Our kids deserve to possess the skills and qualities that create a likelihood of success. Asking for help is the definition of being STRONG.
Early on, I learned that my son Bryce would need specialized care and services in order to succeed. As soon as Bryce was starting school, I met with the school administrators and informed them of Bryce’s diagnosis and developmental and learning challenges. I provided the information I had and asked the school for help for my child. I wanted Bryce to get as much support from school as he could so that he could succeed. Although worried he or I would be judged, I asked for their help immediately—in fact, I informed the school system that Bryce had a mental health condition at kindergarten orientation.
Why did I do this? Because Bryce and I needed and deserved their help. Keeping the information to myself because of my concerns would have been dangerous. When a mental health condition goes untreated and the right supports are not in place, it can affect all aspects of someone’s life—they do not sleep well, do not eat well, and can have thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Bryce needed services in school to allow him to learn in an environment supportive of his needs. And I needed to be STRONG to give him that.
After I reached out to the school, I kept being told, “thank you.” I kept hearing it over and over: “Thank you. Thank you for being open and honest. Thank you for letting us know.” It turns out, many people do not offer up this kind of information. People do not know that being upfront about mental health conditions, developmental delays, or other learning or behavioral challenges, shows strength. I know there is the fear of judgment, of labeling, of your child being different, but you are providing others with the tools they need so they can support your child.
I have often questioned why it was so natural for me to easily admit I needed to get help for my son at such a young age. I knew as young as 18 months that something was different about him. He was a perfect baby—he hit every developmental milestone and was a bundle of joy. But as he grew, he did not conform to toddler norms, he had longer tantrums than other kids, and his behaviors were challenging. Bryce is adopted, and as an adoptive parent, I think I had an advantage. I was told about my son’s birthparents’ history and I knew that there were challenges to overcome. I was hypersensitive to developmental delays. I think a part of me knew I would not be judged because he was not my biological child, and that helped make me more comfortable admitting I needed help. I know people worry about judgment, but you should not. Mental illness is no one’s fault—it is an illness like any other. The only thing you need to worry about is giving your child strength. Teaching them that asking for help takes courage, and you have that courage and are passing it on to them.
By getting help for Bryce and for myself, we have both become stronger. I am stronger for getting Bryce help—for knowing when I needed help for myself and Bryce. Bryce is stronger for having received help, for learning to persevere, for overcoming challenges, and learning coping skills. He has come so far, learned so much, and become a courageous young man. Bryce has been through so much, but these challenges have given him resilience and greater self-esteem, and that makes him strong.
I urge you not to feel weak if you need help for you or your child. Get help just like you would for any other illness. You can start with your pediatrician, the counselor at your child’s school, a trusted friend who has gone through something similar—anyone. Just reach out and ask for help for you or your children—you and your child deserve that. You will feel stronger. You will make your child stronger. You need the help of others and that makes you brave, strong, and courageous.
Tracy Greenberg has become a strong part of the Sheppard Pratt community. She is mother to Bryce, who attends The Frost School, part of the Sheppard Pratt Health System. She gives her time as part of the Consumer Advisory Council, a group of family members, former patients, former students, and employees of the health system who are dedicated to improving our quality of care and enhancing recovery from mental illness and addiction. Follow along with Tracy through her blog.