#BreakingSilence: Having the conversation about mental illness and suicide with kids, teens

Posted at 5:07 PM, Feb 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 22:05:31-05

We need to help our kids and teens with mental illness and suicide. We need to ask the questions. We need to talk.

“I have found that some parents feel like they’re a failure, if their child says, ‘I’m really depressed.’ ‘Oh, you don’t have anything to be depressed about. I don’t believe that they would say the same thing if a child said, ‘look mom my bone is sticking out.’ They would get them to a hospital, immediately to fix that. And we have to see mental illness the same way,” Ellen Eggert with Kern County Mental Health Crisis said.

Caitlin's parents did and now she's 19 and living well with a mental illness.

“I still struggle with mental illness,” Caitlin Wren said. “I struggle with anxiety and my PTSD occasionally the depression flare up but I’ve learned how to live with it and I’ve developed a support system around me that is great and I’m living my life.”

She’s living her life well, a wish many parents have for their kids. So, ask the questions and talk about mental illness and suicide.

“It’s not difficult. It’s just a few questions here and there and, either answered by the kids or by the teachers and it’s not very time consuming but it’s lifesaving,” Bakersfield psychiatrist Dr. Alert Ma said.

It is lifesaving -- something we want for all our kids and teens.

“When I talk about it, some of that shame, some of that guilt, some of that fear is released,” Wren said.  “Staying silent, you’re, you’re not in control, you’re letting fear or shame have that control over you.”

Related article: How to talk to adolescents about mental illness and suicide