Fighting the stigma around mental health starts by sharing our own stories.
May is Mental Health Month and at Businessolver we are encouraging our employees to share their stories to help fight the spread of stigma. We do this by sharing in our weekly newsletters, talking about experiences at our weekly all-team meetings and hosting Conversation Corners where employees can share freely. Here is my story.
When my son was in preschool, we had a conference with his teacher. What I was looking forward to—seeing his drawings and hearing about his new friends—turned into his instructor sharing she thought he needed to be mentally evaluated. We went to the pediatrician. She was very kind and understanding but admitted there is no “right” place to go and anywhere she was going to send us was going to have a wait list. She was right. We waited, but finally got my son into play therapy. That only worked for a few years.
As he approached 1st grade, things had gotten worse. I knew it was time to explore medication. Medication with children is difficult because there is a lot of trial and error and even bad side effects. Things ebbed and flowed, and we tried many therapists. By the time he was in 2nd grade, he started to have very negative thoughts and we had to do a couple of outpatient hospital programs and one inpatient program. Those were the most difficult times in my life to date. They do not tell you that you do not get to be with your child during these stays, only time on the phone and brief visiting hours. Leaving my young son and not being able to be with him was traumatic for our entire family.
We continued to have a couple of rough years of different medications, therapists, and teachers. He would act out in class, did not have many friends and his mood would change constantly. It was time for a real diagnosis. We had trouble finding a child psychiatrist in our area and eventually traveled to Chicago to meet with a doctor specializing in bipolar disorder in children. Our instincts were correct, that was what he had.
But things got better! He was put on the correct medications and started therapy again. He was getting older and maturing. Middle school came and went and now my son is a freshman in high school. I am proud to report he is doing well and has more friends than ever. He participated in the basketball team and is looking forward to a summer learning how to drive and hanging out with his friends.
I will admit, there were many, many days that I never thought I would see these moments. Don’t get me wrong, we have our bad days! I am a firm believer in finding the right therapist, medication (if it is needed) and family support is the recipe for success. Because even I have learned, you can live a very productive life with a serious mental illness.
The Businessolver Foundation is proud to include mental health in one of its three giving pillars. Throughout the years we have supported organizations like NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness), Make It Ok, and other community-based grassroots efforts to fight mental illness. This month, during Mental Health Awareness Month, be sure to take care of your mental health and always check in with those you love to make sure they are ok.