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Denial Is a River in Egypt (The Truth About Teen Mental Illness)


You think you know my daughter? Or anything she has been through? Or goes through on a daily basis? You do not. In fact, you know nothing. You cannot even imagine. And even as her mother and her greatest supporter, neither can I. But I can try to paint you a picture of what I do know.


I do know that my daughter struggles every day with a mind that tells her she is not good enough, she is not pretty enough, she is not strong enough or smart enough or fit enough. She is just not enough. And on the worst of days, that same mind tells her that she cannot make it through and that everyone is talking about or thinking about what a failure she is; that no one likes her and that she is unlovable. And she struggles with the powerlessness she feels to fight these demons in her head and it takes all the strength she can muster to convince herself that these things are not true and that she is worthy.


I do know that she lives with a body that takes cues from this mind and it does things that she cannot control. Sometimes she has nervous ticks or body spasms. Sometimes she can’t see or hear. There are moments when she zones out and becomes unresponsive. And then there are times when she has full blown seizures that last for days and she wakes up in a hospital where she is paralyzed and cannot speak. And she looks at me with eyes that say, “It’s happened again, hasn’t it?” And I nod my head, “Yes”. And tears roll down a face she cannot move.


You think you know. But you don’t. You cannot even imagine. But still you, as an adult, choose to judge her for choosing to end a friendship that she tried for months to save but in the end realized was not good for her. You think anxiety or depression are not “a thing”. You think she can be “fixed” with yoga and aromatherapy. You think medications are a farce and a cop out. You don’t think "it’s a good idea” for your child to spend time with her but it is good she is “getting the help she needs”. You block her on social media. You talk about her with other people and discuss what you think you know. But you don’t know.


One thing you don’t know are THE FACTS (provided by the National Institute of Mental Health).

  • 1 in 5 children ages 13-18 have, or will have a serious mental illness.

  • 11% of youth have a mood disorder.

  • 8% of youth have an anxiety disorder.

  • One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by the age of 24.

  • 37% of students with a mental health condition age 14 and older drop out of school—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.

  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in youth ages 10 - 24.

  • 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.

See, what you really don’t know (or don’t want to know) is that there is a pretty good chance that your child could be suffering or end up suffering from a mental illness just like my daughter. But you are in denial – just like most of this country.


So tonight, before you go to bed, pray to God that your child does not end up as one of the 20% just like my daughter. And maybe tomorrow morning you can wake up and educate yourself about mental illness. Because ignorance perpetuates the stigma

– and it also makes you look stupid.

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It's All in My Head

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