By Katie Dam
Kids need to be able to talk to their parents about their feelings. They need an open space where they feel safe to share their emotions and thoughts. Although mental health is becoming more widely noticed, the earlier generations and those who live in “traditional” households still don’t have a grasp on the true struggles that people face when they have a mental health disorder.
From not believing in treatments for mental health to simply not believing in mental health issues at all, society needs to accept that people who struggle with depression and anxiety aren’t faking it for attention, weak, or being dramatic.
As COVID-19 lockdowns kicked in, many people began to feel the effects of isolation, including myself. At the age of 14, I began to have severe panic attacks in and out of public. This led to a lot of anxiety and even depressive episodes. I couldn’t put into words what was causing my sudden anxiety and sadness. I was told that I was being dramatic or that I was lazy and just trying to get out of school. It took months of random panic attacks and lack of any motivation for anything before I saw a doctor for help.
I grew up in a culture where mental health issues often are swept under the rug. People often put up a wall to mask their emotions.
I’m not saying that it people around me didn’t care or recognize my feelings. It was purely that I didn’t even know that it was normal to talk about your emotions. I was shocked when I heard that my friends were able to talk about their feelings. Now that I’m older, I can recognize that this is a problem passed on from one generation to the next.
After bottling these feelings and emotions up for so long, it took a toll on me. I was stressed about not being able to live up to everyone’s expectations of me. I was the little sister of this genius that cruised by so easily in school. I felt that everyone expected so much from me at such a young age that it sent me to such a negative space in my head.
An article on Healthline written by Crystal Raypole and medically reviewed by Jennifer Litner, PhD, states that people hide their feelings to avoid showing weakness, avoid getting hurt, protect their relationships, and because of a lack of confidence. This could very well be the cause of the pattern in homes that hesitate to open up to their feelings.
NHS UK, a British health source, wrote an article about living with clinical depression. They stated that just talking about things can help people recover from depression and cope better with stress.
At a certain point, we have to recognize the severe outcomes of trying to seem perfect to society by making your family seem constantly happy. This is what causes people to bottle up their feelings because everyone around them seems to be okay. People aren’t perfect. Even the biggest rays of sunshine still have dark days. By simply normalizing sharing emotions and being able to openly express your feelings, the cases of depression, self-harm, and suicide would decrease.
I still struggle with my mental health sometimes. There are good days where I feel so happy with life. There are other days that I am sent into a state where I question if I have any motivation for anything.
My goal for the future is to have a home where my children feel like they’re able to talk to me. I want them to grow up being able to share their emotions so they don’t have to experience the same struggles that their mother did.
Katie Dam is a student at Dauphin County Technical School.