Thoughts wanted: A post from our community for young people.

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Prolific scribe

Thoughts wanted: A post from our community for young people.

Hi everyone,

A little while ago, one of our members who's in their 20's posted this about their experiences with mental illness and their parent's response when they were younger. They've agreed to let me share their story with you all. It's a tough read, so i want to remind you to look after yourself. Just in case, i suggest you  read this when you're in a good space and have some time for self-care.

 

Here's what they wrote:

 

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and just wanted to share my experience with this in case someone else finds it helpful, because I think it might’ve helped me back when this stuff was going on for me. And just because I want to get it off my chest Smiley Tongue Apologies and TL;DR warning in advance because this has about 1000 more words than it should.

 

Sometimes as a young person looking for help with something, you‘ll find that a lot of people suggest talking to your parents. This can be great if you’ve got a good relationship with them, although obviously not so great if there’s issues in the relationship. But sometimes even when supportive parents try to help, they do so in ways that turn out to be pretty unhelpful.

 

When I tried to get help with a mental health issue and opened up to my parents about it, they meant well and they did a bunch of helpful supportive stuff like helping me make/attend some appointments, but there were some things that were really very unhelpful as well. At the time, I didn’t realise why they were unhelpful and I felt like I was a spoiled entitled brat for not being ‘helped’ even though they were trying. I also didn’t realise that it was possible to ask for a different type of support from them, or to try and suggest more helpful ways that they could approach it.

 

Some examples I’ve experienced are:

  • Trying to force discussion about an issue, from a place of “I want to understand the problem so I can help solve it.” Things like repeated questioning (why, what, how long) when I didn’t necessarily know or have the answers, or it was too hard to talk about them. Frequently bringing up the issue no matter what else was happening at the time. Blowing up when I just couldn’t talk about it. Physically trapping me in a room to try and get an answer/response out of me, in the middle of a one-sided shouting match when everyone was already super on edge. Incredibly unhelpful even though it started out from the right place.
  • Dismissing disclosed issues, from a place of “It’s going to be ok, it can be fixed.” I tried writing a letter one time – it came back looking like a teacher had marked the damn thing. Red pen rebuttals all over the page, and I’m pretty sure a corrected spelling error as well. Just… No. I’m surprised it didn’t have a score out of 20 on it, but if it had I might’ve got 5 marks. Also things like “I don’t think it’s as bad/serious as ___,” just sounds dismissive rather than encouraging.
  • Trying to force an activity, from a place of “Doing this might help you feel better.” For example, asking a “Do you want to do XYZ?” question where the only correct answer is yes, and getting angry with a response of no. Also pulling blankets off the bed is one thing, but pulling a person off a bed and PJ’s off a person is kinda messed up.

What could’ve been done better? Recognising where the issues were with the type of support my parents were able to provide, and giving them the resources to do something more helpful. Realising that they weren’t intentionally trying to make things more difficult, and that it wasn’t my fault that it was unhelpful. Setting aside a period of time, in advance, where both parties could prepare questions and answers. Figuring out what a helpful vs unhelpful supportive discussion/activity might be like, and ways that both parties can notice when it's going way off course. Having a pre-planned agreement on what the exit/pause strategy is when things do go way off course.

 

So for anyone who made it to the end, you must have superhuman reading abilities! But also to anyone who's going through something similar - if you notice that your parents seem to be trying to support you but it’s not helping and seems to be making things worse, it is not your fault. Not being helped by unhelpful stuff isn’t a personal failure. But there can be ways around it if you notice what's unhelpful and can figure out ways to make it more helpful. The RO Parents site seems like a great resource that could help parents to support their children in more useful/helpful ways, and I'd definitely recommend pointing your folks in that direction if it seems like they need more info.

 

 

What do you all think?

 

 

Frequent scribe

Re: Thoughts wanted: A post from our community for young people.

Hi @Ben-RO.  This is a really well written and valid piece.  I've been lucky that my kids haven't had any mental illness issues, but I have, and my experiences were pretty similar to this persons.

 

My mum was an amazing parent, but when it became apparent that I was unwell, she just did not now how to react, and she had no idea what was helpful, and what wasn't.  Awareness of mental health has come a long way in the last 25 years or so, but nobody can assume or expect any parent to have all the answers.  If something doesn't feel right about your kid, there are lots of resources, and places to turn.  RO parents is a really great place to start.  



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Prolific scribe

Re: Thoughts wanted: A post from our community for young people.

Thanks @StHubbins! I shall pass it on to the young person who wrote it Smiley Happy

 

Here's a tricky thought i've been wrestling with:

 

I think all of the parents i've seen on this forum "get it" they know where to go and they're okay with owning the fact that sometimes we don't have all the answers and even the best of us could always learn a little more.

 

A lot of the parents of my young people don't "get it" though. I'm speaking to a Teenager right now who's experiencing some severe symptoms of Depression and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Whenever they speak to their parents, they get another appointment with the psychologist but no direct support from the parents. Clearly mum and dad mean well, but are perhaps struggling to see what support they can offer their child directly as they discover their path to recovery. We're working on that, and encouraging the Teenager's psychologist to have a chat to the parents about their support needs.

 

What do we say to those parents who don't know, or are resistent to seeing things differently? How do we crack the shell and help them consider other ways of doing things?

 

 

Contributor

Re: Thoughts wanted: A post from our community for young people.

Anyone else got thoughts to share on this one from our youth forum?
Contributor

Re: Thoughts wanted: A post from our community for young people.

This was hard to read but I'm glad I did. As a parent, I feel compassion for the writer's parents, trying to make it "all better" and doing their best to offer what they believe are helpful suggestions.

 

But I was also once a 17-y-o, living away from home and suicidally depressed so I can relate to the writer-- why couldn't people see how fragile I was and help me? Why couldn't I just do what they say and "snap out of it"?

 

My  son suffers anxiety and depression. I didn't recognise it in him, he masked it. When he was 14 he asked me for help. And I saw it. My heart was aching for what he was going through, partly for him, partly for my teenage self who always wanted to be "easygoing" instead of so intense.

 

What I did was to tell him:

 

  • I had been through something similar and although it's hard to believe things can get better -  they usually do.
  • Some people feel better with medication or seeing a psychologist or both. Some go to places like Beyond Blue or Headspace. We could get some advice from the GP together or if he preferred I could wait outside.

That was the beginning for us.My son wanted to try medication and see a pyschologist. I went with him for the first appointment, then he went on his own.He had to try different antidepressants but after 18 months he felt that he could manage on meds alone and had learnt some great strategies for dealing with his anxiety. There's always the option of returning to his psychologist if ever he feels the need. It hasn't been all beer and skittles what with the added stress of adolescent hormones and insecurities but we are managing.

 

He is courageous. I am so proud of him.

Contributor

Re: Thoughts wanted: A post from our community for young people.

Thanks so much for sharing @Mitzi - there is so much in your post that fulls me with hope for all those starting out on their help-seeking journey...