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Middle school students share their thoughts on mental health (5/9/19)

When mental health specialist Crystal Garcia asked middle school students for their thoughts around mental health and strategies they use to cope or help their friends, they had A LOT to say. She said it’s important for parents to remember that if their child is struggling with mental health issues, it’s ok to seek outside help for support.

“There are things adults struggle with and there are things children struggle with too – it’s a natural part of life,” she said. “We are born hard-wired to struggle and learn to adapt. However, there can be topics youth are not ready or comfortable talking to their parents about. Providing your child with a trained supportive adult is a safe way to help them work through adolescence.”

Here is some insight into what kids today are thinking and saying about mental health:

What are some of the biggest misconceptions amongst your peers about mental health and mental illness?

  • ‘AUTISM! People call others Autistic as a joke and I find it insulting and mean. It hurts my feelings when others call people autistic, because we’re not stupid or something.’ - Daniel
  • ‘A lot of people think Mental Illness is only people who have special needs’ - Emilio
  • ‘Saying things like ‘ they’re autistic’ or making fun of autism. People think if you’re autistic you don’t speak or act the same as other kids’ - Sebastian
  • ‘That every single mental illness is depression’ – Maya
  • ‘That there is something wrong with you’ – Alex
  • ‘That I want to hurt myself or have ever tried or even thought about it’ – James
  • ‘If you have a mental illness people think your different, but you’re really not – Leah
  • ‘People think it’s your fault, when it’s not your fault. You didn’t choose it’ – Zoe
  • ‘If you hang out with people who have mental health issues you can catch it, but it’s not something you can catch. It’s something you live with, you can’t control it’ - Lakeisha

If comfortable, describe how you  have dealt with a mental health issue and what strategies helped you?

  • ‘Breathing, asking a teacher for a break like walking away even for 10 seconds.’ - Daniel
  • ‘I listen to music and play sports.’ - Emilio
  • ‘The fact that I know people will be there to support me no matter what’ - Sebastian
  • ‘For anxiety, I click a pen’ – Maya
  • ‘I try ask my mom or people to go do something. If I’m upset about something I try to think about the good and different steps I could take to keep away depressive thoughts’ – Alex
  • ‘I think about my family members’ – Cameron
  • ‘calming yourself down by saying it’s going to be ok’ - Jade
  • ‘Listening to music or talking to someone like friends or family – Isabella
  • ‘go to your family or your counselor, talking helps a lot - Jenna
  • ‘I like talking to my really close friends - Zoë

What would you tell someone who is suffering from depression, anxiety or thoughts of suicide?

  • ‘I would ask them to think about what is good in their life, Focus on the positive.’ - Daniel
  • ‘Tell somebody’- Emilio
  • ‘Don’t worry there are people out there who care about you. If you need a friend talk to me. I’ll be a good friend even if I don’t like the person, - Sebastian
  • ‘People around you care’ – Maya
  • ‘You’re not the only one. Other people feel that way too, so, you’re not alone’ – Cameron
  • ‘It’s okay and you’ll get through it – Lily
  • ‘Support them in whatever they do and encourage them. Remember it’s not their fault’ – Zoë
  • ‘You’re always going to be there with them- to help them with whatever they are going through’ - Isabella
  • ‘If you need to talk, I am here to talk to you and if you do not want to talk to me- there is someone out there who can help you’ - Lakeisha

What would you tell adults? How can they best support young people dealing with a mental health issue?

  • ‘Ask yourself, “how do you think the child wants to be treated?” Make sure you use the golden rule: treat others how you would want to be treated.’ - Daniel
  • ‘Stay Calm. Yelling doesn’t help.’ - Emilio
  • ‘If you see them in a store give them space, don’t stare at them- it makes it worse you could try talking to them instead.’ -Sebastian
  • ‘Have patience with us’ - Cameron
  • ‘Ask simple questions. Questions like, what are your hobbies or what do you like to do?’ – Alex
  • ‘Be there for them and make sure they know you love them – Lakeisha
  • ‘Recognize I am a human and not just a kid. I do understand things and my feelings are real’ -  Jordan
  • ‘Give them space if they need it. Sometimes people just need to be alone for a minute’ – Alannah
  • ‘Act like I am normal, let me be independent. Not different.’ - Zoe
  • ‘Talk to me and listen to me. Speak to me like I am your friend and not a child’ – Jenna