Make a Wish – Part 1

October 10th. World Mental Health Day. Also the day before my son turns 13. When he wakes up tomorrow he will have made another trip around the sun while living with anxiety and depression, and will morph from being a child battling mental illness to being a teenager battling mental illness. The fact that the focus for World Mental Health Day in 2018 is “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World” seems especially apropos to me. In fact it almost feels like it could be the title to this chapter of our family life.

According to the World Health Organization:

  • One in six people are aged 10–19 years.
  • Mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10–19 years.
  • Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated.
  • Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15–19 year olds.
  • The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.
  • Mental health promotion and prevention are key to helping adolescents thrive.

My son is a living, breathing person behind those statistics, but neither his mental illness nor those statistics define him. Tomorrow – on his birthday – I will share some thoughts about some of the gifts I think he has received because of his diagnosis and the birthday wish I have for him. But today, on this day where I am watching my only son slip from child to teen, I want to take some time to shine a light on the global reality of mental illness.

World Mental Health Day is set aside for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against stigma.  First recognized in 1992 as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, World Mental Health Day has grown to be recognized in more than 100 countries as a day to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on individuals, families and communities worldwide.

In other words, World Mental Health Day is a reminder to us as global citizens that it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about mental illness, speak up about mental illness, and support those who are living with mental illness. There is power in numbers and I believe it is time for all of us to speak up, speak out, and break down the stigma that continues to surround mental illness – specifically childhood and adolescent mental illness.

Tomorrow, my son will blow out 13 candles and make a wish. Today – and everyday – I wish for him, and for every other child around the world battling mental illness, a world in which there is less stigma, more understanding, early diagnosis, increased access to high quality and affordable treatment, and hope for a healthier future. I invite you to join me not just in making that wish, but in doing whatever you can from your own corner of the world to help make that wish a reality.




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