If you are struggling and thinking about reaching out to a medical professional but are hesitant to do so, perhaps knowing the powerful things kids learn when you seek help for your mental health might help you take that next step.
Recognizing that you might need help and then actually reaching out are very hard things to do. There is such a stigma around mental illness and around medication, and therapy to manage them, that reaching out can feel like a failure.
But reaching out for help with your mental health issues might not only make your life a better place but also improve the life of your kids!
Here are 5 powerful things your kids learn when you ask seek help for your mental health.
#1 – That asking for help is ok.
One lesson that we try to model for our kids over and over is that it’s ok to ask for help and that doing so isn’t a sign of weakness.
But asking for help is very hard to do, mostly because we all want to believe that we can do it ourselves.
Think about your kids learning to walk or ride a bike. Didn’t they want to do it themselves? And didn’t they fall down a lot?
How about your husband when he doesn’t ask for help getting his work project done so he isn’t home for dinner for a week?
How about you knowing that you can’t be in 5 places at once but trying to do so nonetheless and letting everyone down?
All of these examples are people believing that they can do things without help and having to deal with the consequences. By reaching out for help with your mental health, you are teaching your kids a very powerful lesson about how important getting help can be and what a difference it can make.
So, set a good example for your kids – reach out to someone who can help you get healthy.
#2 – That honesty is important.
Another important lesson that we try to teach our kids is the importance of being honest, always, and that there can be serious consequences if we aren’t. And the consequences of not being honest about your mental health can be disastrous for the whole family!
Imagine what your kids learn when they see you struggling and not doing anything about it. When you are acting like you’ve got this but you obviously haven’t. When they see you pretending that everything is ok but they know it’s not. When they watch you lying to your family/friends/co-workers that everything is fine.
Having the strength to seek help for your mental health is a lesson in honesty that your kids will remember and admire. And they will see the positive consequences that will happen when you are honest with everyone, and with yourself!
#3 – That they are not to blame for your issues.
When my kids were 13 and 14, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had been struggling with my moods for many years and I didn’t really know why. I am sure that I couldn’t face the truth about it as much as I just didn’t know what to do.
Unfortunately, a breakdown forced me to reach out for help. I am glad I did because I got my diagnosis and I was able to start working towards living with it successfully.
When I told me kids about my diagnosis, my daughter said ‘I am so glad that it wasn’t me making you sad for all of these years.’ Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes, still.
My daughter honestly believed that all of my emotional struggles were her fault. I remember thinking the same thing when my mom was sad – that if I was good enough/smart enough/happy enough, I could fix her. Of course, I couldn’t and I have spent much of my life wishing that I could have.
Now I know that my mom was struggling with anxiety and her unhappy marriage and that there was nothing that I could have done to fix that. If only we had been able to have a talk about what was going on, if she could have reached out to someone for help, maybe I wouldn’t have all the baggage that I do from a childhood caring for my mother, something that has had a significant effect on who I became as an adult.
Reaching out for help, and being able to put words to your feelings, will only help your kids understand so that they can lead happy lives, unburdened by their self-blame at their parent’s mood!
#4 – That mental health conditions are real.
I can’t tell you how many people I have encountered over the years who tell me that they ‘don’t believe in’ mental health conditions. That people who struggle with depression, anxiety and more are just weaklings who have to ‘suck it up.’
In fact, many mental health issues are issues that are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. That is a proven fact, much like diabetes happens because one’s body can’t control the insulin production. People have no problem accepting diabetes but, for some reason, it’s not the same with mental illness.
We call mental health issues the ‘no casserole disease.’ If people are diagnosed with cancer, people bring food. If they are diagnosed with depression, people stay away, almost afraid that it will be contagious.
So, one important lesson that your kids will learn if you seek help for your mental health is that mental health conditions are a thing, much like diabetes, a health issue that affects millions of Americans every year. And, if they know this to be true, if and when the time comes that they must manage their own mental health, or that of a loved one, they will know that it is a real thing and something that can be dealt with!
#5 – That there is always hope.
I know that from where I sat, burdened by depression, I had no hope for the future. The likelihood that I would ever be happy again seemed impossible! And I am pretty sure that those feelings were contagious for my kids – how could they not be when they were being displayed by their mother day in and day out for years?
But, once I reached out for help, everything changed. With help from my doctor, for the first time I had real hope for the future. For the first time I believed that I could be happy again. And, as I got better and started to believe again, my kids started to feel hopeful as well.
For years they had seen me sad and, in retrospect, I see now how it was affecting their lives. They both struggled with anxiety and my son clung to me in a way that wasn’t helping either one of us! Once I started getting better, my children’s anxiety was greatly lessened and my son was willing to let me out of his sight.
What a gift it was for me, and for them, that reaching out for help with my mental health was the thing that gave us all hope again. Because here we are today, all healthy and successful and connected by something that we all went through together but that their mom resolved for all of us by taking that big step.
There are many important things kids learn when you seek help with your mental health.
When you reach out for help, you are reinforcing those lessons of honesty and the importance of asking for help that you have been modeling the for years. You are also helping them see that what you have struggled with is a real medical issue and not something that is their fault. And, finally, you give them hope – something we all need in this scary world.
So, take that step. Reach out for help managing your mental health. You, and your kids, will be glad that you did!