There’s no start date when it comes to mental illness. While depression is often considered to start in adulthood, the truth of the matter is that it can occur at any age. Half of people who experience mental health conditions do so before they’re 14, with 75% doing so before they’re 24.
When you’re a child however, you most likely have no idea that the things you’re experiencing are symptoms of mental illness. Because of things like stigma and a lack of understanding that children can have mental illnesses, these symptoms can be dismissed as a child having a bad attitude, poor parenting, or simply just the child being emotional. It’s not until you’re older that you may have looked back and realized that some of the things you experienced and did as a child were either symptoms or the first few signs of mental illness. These can feel like “aha!” moments in putting the puzzle pieces together in your mental health journey.
The Child Mind Institute is focused on spreading awareness on children’s mental health and providing the tools to help people realize that mental illness can happen to anyone, regardless of age. As a part of their outreach, they have a feature where notable figures and celebrities who have mental illnesses leave short videos to their younger selves (appropriately named #myyoungerself). These include Kristen Bell, who has anxiety and depression, Michael Phelps, who has ADHD, and Emma Stone, who has anxiety and a panic disorder.
They all discuss the mental illness diagnoses they have and when they first noticed that they experienced their symptoms. The messages are often pieces of advice, reassuring their younger selves that it gets better and that what they’re going through is justified. While it’s a message to themselves, it’s also a great way for viewers to recognize that they aren’t alone in their struggles and that even the most successful people struggle too.
What would you tell your younger self about your mental health? Did you notice anything about your child’s mental health when they were younger? How was it handled then, and how would you handle it now?