Seeing all the tweets about Children’s Mental Health Week made me realise how inconsiderate I have been. It made me realise I have not been truly vocal about my mental health journey with you all. While I have spoken to people about it on an individual basis, I have never taken the time to write about my mental health as a child.
When I was young(er), mental health was not spoken about. I had never heard of mental health before sixth form. I didn’t know what it was. Yet, at a young age, I was experiencing my mental health deteriorate at a rapid rate.
It was in secondary school I became aware of everything that was going on around me. I like to think I was always a perceptive child. And I was. My family can testify to that. However, it wasn’t until Year 9 that everything that was happening around me fully registered in my mind.
From troubles at home to the stabbings and shootings in the local area, a lot of things became normalised. Living in an African household did not make things better. I never felt comfortable talking about what was going on in my mind to any of my family members. I guess that was for three reasons.
Firstly, I didn’t even know what was truly going on. I found it hard to articulate my thoughts.
Secondly, based on previous experience of being vocal about certain things, I wasn’t ready to experience the consequences of being outspoken.
Thirdly, it was never spoken about at home so I never knew how to bring it up.
There probably were more reasons. Nevertheless, I stayed silent.
My demeanour at school was not too unusual. I don’t think I scared anyone. But my behaviour didn’t feel natural all the time. I thought I was born anti-social and hated everyone. I thought I didn’t need to be around people and the world hated me. Maybe that was true, but I had little proof. It’s only as I grew older that I realised I had embodied my depression. Darkness had become my ally. My friend.
I wish I had been aware of what was going on. Maybe things would have been different. Maybe I would have been able to help others in the same situation. Maybe I wouldn’t even be in the current situation I’m in. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.
Still, that doesn’t mean nothing should be done for the younger generation. We are in an age where mental health is being spoken more about (albeit not much is actually being done). It’s time for us to educate young people about mental health. It’s time to educate ourselves about mental health. It’s time to educate the older generation about mental health.
Parents, learn to listen to your children. Be there for them in the right way. Children, be more vocal. It takes courage, but you will be in a much better place if you speak to someone trustworthy about what is going on. Let’s make a change today. Let’s start now.
Written by Rodney