If you’re reading this, odds are you have a child in your life that you love deeply. You may be a parent or grandparent. Perhaps an aunt, an uncle or a close family friend. Maybe even a godparent. Regardless of how your relationship is defined, you and that child have a special bond.
Imagine you and that child, Johnny, are spending the afternoon in the park, jumping and laughing, chasing squirrels and playing “I spy.” All is going well until that one wobble on a slippery jungle gym and thump! That child you love falls awkwardly on one arm, and tears of pain begin to flow. You suspect Johnny’s arm may be broken.
Johnny is crying, but not sobbing hysterically. The arm looks ok…just a little bruise starting to form…but Johnny winces in pain when you touch it. Your gut tells you that a fall like that suggests a trip to the emergency room would be prudent, considering the arm is likely broken, but you just aren’t sure.
So, you head home. You give Johnny some ibuprofen, put an ice pack where the bruise is now accompanied by swelling, and perhaps make a sling of sorts so he can rest his arm. You decide to keep an eye on it and see if the arm improves. It doesn’t, and you’re even more convinced that it’s broken. Johnny is still cradling his arm gently and winces when you touch it, but he doesn’t cry as much. Maybe if you just keep an eye on it another day…
Would you wait to treat Johnny’s more-than-likely broken arm in the hope that perhaps it really isn’t broken, or maybe it would eventually heal itself? Of course not! You love Johnny and would do anything to help and heal him.
Now, imagine that it isn’t Johnny’s arm that is broken; it’s his spirit. Johnny is in pain, not because of his arm, but because his brain is not working like his peers’. Johnny suffers from severe ADHD: he gets in trouble at school, his grades are low, and other kids pick on him. Going to school is a real cause of anxiety, even though he hides it. While Johnny suffers from a mental illness and not a physical one, the pain is just as real.
One in five children in Bexar County suffers from a mental illness, yet only one in five of those children receive treatment. One in five.
We would never let a child we love suffer from a broken arm and not get treatment. We should never let a child we love suffer from mental illness and not get treatment.
If you suspect a child you love may be struggling with a mental illness, know the warning signs. And don’t wait to seek help.