Middlemist is committed to building and fostering community. Our young people are very much a part of that community and we are proud to partner with Robbie’s Hope to raise awareness around teen mental health. Kari Eckert from Robbie’s Hope is a guest blogger this month. Thank you, Kari, for sharing your story and empowering teens to support each other.
By Kari Eckert
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Observed the month of May in the United States since 1949 but now more relevant and important than ever. 1 in 5 adults has a diagnosable mental illness but the average time a person waits between onset and treatment is 11 years. Can you imagine completing your daily life with a broken arm for 11 years? Why the difference between a mental illness and a physical illness? Stigma is one of the main reasons. Are you a parent of a teen? If you are, please keep reading.
In the fall of 2018 I lost my son Robbie to suicide. Robbie, a successful 15 year old student athlete, who made life look fun and carefree as school, work and friendships came easy to him. Yet he died alone in the dark. My husband and I quickly learned what an epidemic teen suicide is in the state of Colorado and in our country. Suicide is the number one killer of teens and rates have risen over 50% between 2016-2018. WHY? Suicide is complex and difficult to understand. I have spent the past 2.5 years trying to figure out the why’s and now run a nonprofit with the goal of reducing teen suicide rates in half by 2028-Robbie’s Hope.
I listen to teens on a daily basis. I have learned a lot. I would do things differently for Robbie if I could but life doesn’t offer do overs.
As a parent of a teen I encourage you to:
1. Ask your teen how they really feel. How is their mental health?
2. Ask your teen – Do they know where to go if they are concerned for one of their friends or for themselves? Teach them to get a TRUSTED ADULT involved (an adult even if it isn’t you-I know as a parent this is hard to understand but the truth is most children don’t want to let their parents down). These issues are too big to handle alone as a teen.
3. I encourage you to be vulnerable with your teen. It is ok to be real with them. Most teens can handle difficult conversations and most want to have them. Ask what worries them, what excites them, causes them anxiety, makes them sad, makes them happy. Show your teen you are willing to listen (put down your phone!). Give your teens a safe space to be real and feel heard-sadly they often don’t have that space.
4. Work on recognizing your own mental health-we all have mental health and can do a better job of taking care of ourselves. Mental illness is treatable and suicide is preventable. There is always HOPE-Hold On Pain Ends…. It’s ok to not be ok.
Check out our website for our Robbie’s Hope Adult Handbook-it is a free resource that is saving lives.
In Hope, Kari (aka Robbie’s mom)