Guest post: Children and mental health - 'I recognise myself in my son, and it terrifies me'
A recent survey revealed that children's mental health is their parents' greatest concern - yet funding for mental health services to support young people has fallen by £50m since 2010. Here, Lucy Benedict - who has depression - writes on her fears for her little boy, in whom she sees so much of herself.
Put Up With Rain
Posted on: Thu 08-Jan-15 15:08:34
(32 comments )
What do most parents wish for their children's future? To be healthy. To be a good person. To be happy.
‘As long as you're happy’, goes the mantra of parents. ‘As long as you're happy, and you're not hurting anyone, I'm happy’. It's really no surprise, then, to learn that in a survey conducted by Action for Children, 40% of parents said that the emotional wellbeing of their children was their most important concern, with health a close second. Amongst mothers, the figure was 47%.
Generally, we take good health for granted - as long as we feed and water our offspring correctly. We baby-proof our houses, we use car seats, we cross at pedestrian crossings, we teach them the right way to hold scissors. We take the steps we can to keep them safe from physical harm. But what we can't do is change the world around them, and how it will shape their perceptions, their thoughts, and their feelings. If you have a child who is a sensitive, gentle soul, life can be a hard road.
I'm ridiculously proud of my little boy – aren't we all? He's funny, he's intelligent, he stands up for what he believes in. I couldn't feel closer to him. He knows when I'm going through a bad patch, when my depression returns, and even though I explain to him that it's just a misfiring brain, and that it's nothing to do with anyone else, least of all him, he tries his best to help. We make each other laugh like no one else can. We love the same humour, we both love to read, we like to be in each others' company. Although he's blond and blue-eyed, and I'm a red-haired, green-eyed monster, we look alike. We have the same massive face, for starters. My phone is crammed full of photos of the two of us pulling faces at each other. He's a lot of fun.
My little boy is considerate, empathetic, gentle, sensitive - and he's a little fragile, just like me. What does the world have in store for someone who bruises so easily?
He's considerate, empathetic, gentle, sensitive - and he's a little fragile, just like me. I recognise myself in him, and it terrifies me.
At times, it's heartbreaking to see myself reflected in him, and to know that he struggles with life at times, just like I did at his age. Just like I do now, in fact. This sweet, thoughtful boy, who can sense my mood better than anyone else in the world, and whom I can understand perfectly, just from the way he'll pause in a doorway, or how he touches his hair - what will his future hold for him? What does the world have in store for someone who bruises so easily? Who will take the smallest of unintentional slights as a deep and gaping wound? For whom everything is taken personally?
That's the life I've lived, and I don't want my children to grow up feeling the same. So, I do what I can. When he struggles, I don't let him go. I want him to know that his feelings are important, that he is important, and he matters – a feeling I've never had. I want him to grow up knowing that it's okay to be soft, to be kind, to be sensitive, but never at your own expense. That it's good to care about others, but sometimes you need to be selfish and put yourself first. That other peoples’ happiness is not your responsibility. Your first responsibility is to take care of your own mental wellbeing. And talk. Always talk. To me, to your dad, to teachers, friends, grandparents. Talk to those whom you trust.
And to my boy, my son, my sweet, wonderful one - I wish I could protect you from all the hurt and harm in the world. I wish I could fight every battle for you. I wish I could save you from the bad times. But I can't.
All I - and any parent - can say is: when the world seems to be against you, when people have hurt you and when you're feeling low, come to me. Let me put my arms around you. Talk to me and tell me what's wrong. Open up and share with me the dark thoughts that you can't push away on your own, the clouds that won't pass. I can't promise that I will always be able to make the sun shine through again - nobody can, my love - but I will always be here for you, to listen, to talk, to care. And to make you know and understand that you are important, that you do matter. But most of all, that you are loved.
By Lucy Benedict
This is very moving. I know my son is in line for a lot of hurt. He's 14 with Aspergers and ocd and has been taking Prozac since he was ten. It's so hard watching him. Too clever for his own good, at times. This Lucy, is exactly how I feel because ultimately, I won't be here forever to protect and help him.
Lovely post. I see a lot of myself in my daughter who has been diagnosed with aspergers and I am doing a lot more than my parents did to help me. I can't blame them though as in the 70's and from very much an upper class background any 'quirks' were disregarded.
FiveGoMad I'm the same. Child of the 60's who as a teenager in the 70's struggled massively and KNEW I was different/didn't fit/ was odd. My son is far more affected though and I know how hard it's been for me.
Oh I identify completely with this post. Lovely piece of writing thank you.
My heart aches with worry that my eldest will have the same struggles I did. I can see it sometimes, and I pray I'm wrong.
duplo that a fantastic and insightful post!!
We all wNt the best for our dcs. We all want them not to suffer. We all have experienced some suffering and of course, we don't want that for our dcs.
The reality is that they will encounter some suffering but might be MH issues like their mum (or dad!). It might be something else.
I found it ever do hard to accept.
Thank you so much for writing this. It really helps to know that other people are going through this. I too have suffered anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. My dad and my paternal grandmother too. My youngest (aged 11) has showed signs for a while and following some recent counselling, we found out that he'd attempted suicide. My heart shattered into tiny pieces and I am currently fighting CAMHS for an urgent appointment. I just don't know how to help him in the meantime, especially as what he see's is me being anxious about him being anxious. I try to hide it, but it must show sometimes
Join the discussion
Registering is free, quick, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Get started »
Please login first.