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Health

Your child being diagnosed with a mental health condition is not your fault

One of the most important things a parent can do is let go of the guilt.

mental health; parenting; teen mental health; mental illness

Your child being diagnosed with a mental health condition is not a parental failure.

My heart dropped when I read the message from my friend. Normally the exchange is pleasant and I look forward to our conversations but before I even opened the message, the preview told me that something was wrong. All I could see was, "Did you hear about Edith's son?"

I hesitated before opening the message because I knew it wouldn't be good, and sadly, I was right. Our friend posted that she was planning funeral services for her 15-year-old son, explaining that he died by suicide. I didn't have the words so I waited days to reach out to share condolences.

It hit too close to home. I have a 14-year-old son. I've talked to my children about mental health and how it's always OK to seek help, even when it feels hopeless. I've given tools to clients and friends who are struggling with their own child's mental health diagnosis and the script remains the same, "I feel like it's my fault."


Shortly after Orion's funeral, one of my own children came to me expressing despair and with all of my training I immediately went to self-blame, still. Even though I know better. Even though my job as a therapist is to help others navigate these feelings. "It's my fault" rang in my ears. But just like I tell other parents, your child's mental health disorder is not a failure on your part as a parent. Some people are just depressed without real explanation. Some people's brains are wired a little bit differently and that doesn't mean that someone broke them or that they're broken at all.

Getting a mental health diagnosis for a child can sometimes knock the wind out of people because as parents the single most important job we have is to get our children to adulthood with as little trauma as possible. We taxi them to different sports, sign ourselves up for field trips and make sure they make it to their well-child visits. We do all of the things to get them across the finish line of adulthood. A mental health diagnosis can feel like you've somehow dropped a very important ball and oftentimes, you didn't.

person in black long sleeve shirt holding hands with person in long cream colored sleevesPhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Our kids live in a completely different world than we did growing up. They're inundated with messaging on a constant basis, and even if you do your best to limit their screen time, it's impossible to escape. Social media continues to be a big driver in declining mental health among teens.

While suicide rates briefly showed an overall decline a couple of years ago, rates of suicide are highest among teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. Mental health conditions in kids such as depression, which can sometimes lead to suicide, are a heavy burden on parents, even without the added burden of guilt. Parents can talk to their children often, check in on active coping skills they're using and give them some if they don't have any.

person with smudged eyeliner holding white printer paper over their mouth with a drawn smilePhoto by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

One of the most important things a parent can do is let go of the guilt. Nothing about your child's mental health struggles says anything about you as a parent, especially If you've been doing the best you can. If you're struggling with feelings around your child's mental health disorder, you too should reach out to a therapist.

Not all mental health disorders result in a catastrophic loss through suicide, but it doesn't hurt to make sure your children have suicide hotlines saved in their phones and posted on the fridge. While death by suicide is tragic, it's also important to remember that it's not anyone's fault.

grayscale photography of woman hugging another womanPhoto by Anastasia Vityukova on Unsplash

If you can look at all you've done and can say you've provided a safe and nourishing environment for your child, I invite you to lay down the self-blame. Parenting is hard enough without beating ourselves up over things outside of our control.

If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide or require mental health support, call or text 988 to talk to a trained counselor at the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, or visit 988lifeline.org to connect with a counselor and chat in real time. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress as well as prevention and crisis resources for healthcare professionals.

The Trevor Project provides 24/7 crisis counseling via phone, text or chat specifically for young LGBTQ people.

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


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He broke down in tears when he recognized her and promised to not let her down.

Inspiring update on man who was recognized by judge in court


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