General News — 03 March 2014
Be fearless, open up on mind health

THE death of Charlotte Dawson last week has made the issues of mental illness and bullying hot topics of conversation, and rightly so.

We seem to be able to talk about other illnesses that lead to loss of life all the time, but mental illness and self-harm are often considered outside the spectrum of appropriateness for us to discuss with our kids.

Last year, a psychological assessment showed that the Boy had scores in the clinical regions for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s eight.

I don’t see that there’s too much proper about that either. But he has known far too much illness and hospitalisation and surgery in his short life, and it would be pretty amazing if he had come through all that without it being reflected in his mental wellbeing.

So he sees a psychologist, who helps him with some coping strategies, and gives him another safe adult to talk to; one that he’s not so concerned with upsetting with certain bits of information as he would be with either me or Modern Dad.bigstock-Mental-Health-Warning--32532146

Some people have suggested to me that I should not be as open about these health issues as I am with his other, physical health issues. And I’m not really sure why. I talk about his asthma, his anaphylaxis, why not his anxiety? I would rather be loud about difference and expect others to shift their perception than to be kept quiet out of fear or shame.

I’m sure that many of us of a certain age can remember being mistreated as young workers and, instead of banging on about people hardening up, I think we should be happy that our society has evolved to a point where that mistreatment just doesn’t fly anymore.

That evolution is a long way from complete though. And with our always switched-on, constantly connected lifestyle, it’s not as though our kids can come home and escape their tormentors.

Which makes it even more important to talk to our kids; even about things we’re scared of hearing the answer to.

Our home’s bully-free: what about your own?

MY FRIENDS at The Community Brave Foundation shared an infographic earlier this week called, “What Qualifies as Bullying?” and I think it’s a good list to kickstart some conversation with your kids.

Bullying can be hitting, threatening, intimidating, maliciously teasing and taunting, name-calling, making sexual remarks (I’m including comments about sexual orientation in this one), stealing or damaging belongings, indirect attacks such as spreading rumours, or encouraging others to reject or exclude someone.

How many of those things happened to your child in the last year?

How many of those things did your child do?

How many of those things happened to you in the last year? How many did you do?

I’m committed to making my home a Bullying Free Zone.

That means being conscious of my own actions as well, not just my kids.

How about you?

This article first appeared on ‘Noosa News’ on 2 March 2014.

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