Growing up can be scary, confusing and uncertain for a lot of kids. Children experience many different stressors, from family life, their friends, school, first relationships, first jobs and more. And coming of age can be even more difficult for those who are dealing with untreated mental health issues. My name is Austin Davis, and I’m a poet, activist and third-year student at ASU. Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with OCD, ADD, anxiety and depression. When I was younger, I used to have a lot of trouble dealing with my intrusive thoughts, and I’d complete specific compulsions and rituals to try to make them go away. I would whisper to my pillow that I loved every single person in my life and I couldn’t sleep before I finished the list. If I missed someone’s name, I’d have to start from the beginning again. As you can guess, I didn’t get a lot of sleep during that time. When I was in the backseat of a car, I’d put my feet up on the back of the headrest, or I was sure we’d crash. There are a lot more compulsions I completed in my day-to-day life, but you get the idea. According to the International OCD Foundation, about half a million children in America are living with OCD. Along with that, the Child Mind Institute estimates that 17.1 million kids in America have a mental health disorder.
Is your child withdrawing?
Are they sleeping more or not sleeping at all?
Are they having trouble doing activities they used to enjoy?
Do they seem more angry, emotional or apathetic?
Do you notice them completing any repetitive behaviors?
When I was younger and struggling, my mom helped me a lot by working through cognitive behavioral therapy workbooks with me, listening to how I was feeling and helping me get on medication for ADD. I think the most important things a parent can do are to stay observant, listen to your child, stay non-judgemental and show them you’re there for them the whole way. Growing up dealing with mental health issues can be an overwhelmingly emotional experience, but just remember that you and your child are in this together, and you’ll get through it together. If your child is experiencing something similar to what I’ve experienced, consider connecting with the helpful resources available to assist children and families experiencing mental health issues. Some resources I’d recommend are Mental Health America, Resources to Recover and the National Institute of Mental Health.
By Austin Davis
Austin Davis is a poet and student activist studying creative writing at Arizona State University