Yesterday, Washington Post journalist, Amy Ellis Nutt, published an article reporting the inadequate and oftentimes nonexistent mental health resources and treatment available to adults. According to an annual assessment conducted by the non-profit organization Mental Health America, “Twenty percent of adults (43.7 million people) have a mental health condition, and more than half of them do not receive treatment.” But what is even more alarming and applicable to the work I care most about is that not only are depression rates among youth rising, but “80 percent of children and adolescents get either insufficient treatment or none at all.” 80 PERCENT!!!! Eighty percent. I cannot wrap my head around that number. It feels almost overwhelming–as if there are too many young people suffering, and not enough mental health workers or effective public policies to affect real change. This is obviously an oversimplification of the problem, but I believe we can and should be doing more to improve everyone’s mental well-being, especially children and adolescents.
So, this Dear Kermit… is less of a letter from someone in particular to me, but it’s my letter to you all–to all those who suffer…who suffer in silence…who suffer out loud…who suffer among loved ones who just don’t get it…who suffer within a society that belittles, trivializes, or even denies one’s mental illness. This one’s for you.
Your feelings are real. Acknowledge them. Yes, your mental illness might make you feel different, but it doesn’t have to define you. It doesn’t have to control you, limit you, make you feel ashamed or embarrassed. Don’t hold it in. You deserve peace, love, wholeness, and wellness, and you can have it all! You can live a productive life with your mental illness, and you don’t have to do it alone.
If you’re ever feeling sad, empty, hopeless, worthless, overly worried, suicidal, simply unlike yourself, or notice minimal or considerable changes, acknowledge those changes and find someone you can trust, who will listen to you and help you determine your next steps. Tell that person how you’re feeling. Sure, this may seem easier said than done, but trust me, it’s worth it. Surround yourself with supportive, non-judgmental people. Talk to your parents [here are some great tips], seek professional help, and most of all, be patient. Be patient with yourself, this process, and your loved ones! All you can do is take it one day at a time, and that’s more than okay. Trust me, I’ve got you.