“Stop it, John. Be a man. Men don’t cry” … those were words John had heard over and over from his dad while growing up. As the years went by, he learned to bottle up his emotions and never bothered to share his fears and challenges.
When he was bullied at school, John swallowed it while it chipped away at his self-confidence. When people mocked him because of his small frame, he swallowed it, choked back tears and tried to “be a man” while his self-esteem grew smaller.
Twenty years later, John is filled with bitter childhood memories, distant from his parents, has no close friends and performs poorly at his job. He has no shred of belief in himself or ability. He thinks his life is a mistake. Yet again, he had no one to tell.
As he walked along Third Mainland Bridge, all he could think of were the words “Be a man”. Yes, he would be a man and end it all. With that thought, he climbed over the railing and plunged himself into the sea.
John’s story, while depressing, is the reality of many young people. Without having excellent support systems, listening ears, and proper guidance, many children have endured terrible onslaught to their mental health via verbal bullying, physical attacks and abuses amongst others. While some of these children are fortunate to find a way out of the effects of these harms to their mental health, some others have grown into teens and adults with terrible mental disorders.
Unlike physical illness, some forms of mental illness seldom show forth but are hidden in the mannerisms, thoughts and speech patterns of the victims.
Fortunately, you can help your child or ward improve their mental health and build a mentally strong adult.
Here are some ways:
- Teach and help your child to understand, express and manage their feelings. It will help them create healthy coping mechanisms.
- Talk about your child’s feelings and try to understand and respect them. This will create a strong bond between you and your child, which will help them feel safe and protected.
- You can help your child to cope with difficult situations by being supportive.
- Teach and help your child to understand stress, loss and grief are normal emotions we all go through in life.
- Try to create and maintain routines, as this will create a consistent environment that can help your child feel safe.
- Create and maintain a supportive relationship with close family members, it will create a secure environment for your child.
- Encourage and initiate activities that stimulate your child’s social and emotional skills, such as expressing and managing their emotions. Be on the lookout for fun and interesting ways to stimulate their emotional development.
- Look for opportunities to build partnerships and relationships with other parents to support your child.
- Observe your child’s behaviours and whenever you notice concerning tendencies, don’t hesitate to ask for specialised help.
Mental health issues can appear scary and overwhelming; however, the good news is that a supportive and stable environment can help build your child’s mental wellbeing.
As we commemorate World Mental Health Day today, October 10, 2018, themed “Young people and mental health in a changing world”, it is pertinent to realize how rapidly the world is changing and to imbibe strategies to make sure that this change affects your child positively.