In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we are working to remove the stigma surrounding mental health diagnosis and treatment, especially in young people. We are honored to have the current chair of A+J Patient Advocacy’s Teen Council share her mental health journey with all of us.
Hey, my name is Maddie, and I’m here to talk about mental health. I have many struggles, but I get through them with help. We can’t always do things alone or just figure them out, but we can always stand up for what’s right.
A year ago, my school did a project called #WhyYouMatter, involving everyone in the building. Students wrote a short sentence on a whiteboard about why they mattered and we created a photo project of everyone holding their signs.
“I matter because I have mental health issues and the world needs me.”
I wrote this because my self-esteem was at a low point and I had told myself I would never matter because of all of the mistakes I made when having mental health challenges.
Fast forward to now, and thanks to support from my parents, teachers, and therapist, I have come to realize that my mental health challenges are a gift and should be talked about. Everyone who struggles with their mental health should feel welcome and safe.
My friends and I took action at our school to raise awareness of mental health challenges. We talked to the principal about why we think mental health awareness is important. He listened to us and was open to ideas on how we could raise awareness about mental health challenges.
Mental health is a real struggle sometimes, but I am learning how to manage it. I know that my mental health is important and struggling never means I am a failure in life. My story is like a wave…I have really good times and then I have some bad times that come crashing in. I always tell myself that I am enough and that mental health challenges make me who I am. No one should be ashamed of their mental health struggles.
Tomorrow needs you. These three words on my bracelet get me through life. I look at this bracelet every day, but especially when I am struggling. It reminds me that the world needs me in every day and every moment. I tell myself that I am enough and that I matter.
About the Author:
Maddie is 13 years old and lives in Ohio. She enjoys writing essays, playing with her leopard gecko, and is the Chair of A+J Patient Advocacy’s inaugural Teen Council.
About Mental Health in Children and Teens:
- 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years have a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.
- Of children aged 3-17 in the U.S., 4.4 million have diagnosed anxiety and 1.9 million have diagnosed depression.
- Nearly half of all adolescents have a mental illness, but only 20% receive treatment.
- For teens in particular, the ability to connect with peers, friends, and relatives is critical and can help protect against depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
Source: #WhyYouMatter Project
Mental Health Resources:
Locate mental health treatment and/or support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.