1. Things are different now.
How often do we hear the phrase “back in my day…” thrown around..? Well, I hate to be the one to point this out but it isn’t your day! Things are undoubtedly different now and as teenagers we face things which never even existed back when you were young (which likely has something to do with the rise of mental illness in young people) – technology, tougher exams, and completely ridiculous standards set by the media all pile on the extra stress and pressure. We are doing the best we can as young people trying to navigate a complex and competitive world.
2. It may not be a 9-5 job, but education is hard work.
So many adults simply don’t understand the pressure teens are put under to be perfect in every area of life especially education, which often leads to problems. We are conditioned to believe exams are the be all and end all of life, grades are more important than ever, and there is constant competition amongst peers – yes, our mental health will sometimes get In the way of education, and no – it doesn’t mean we don’t care. Anxiety doesn’t equal laziness, and sometimes, it all just gets a bit too much.
3. Respect is a two way street.
Please, stop preaching equality but perpetuating stigma… we are not all scheming and moody! Most of us are more than happy to show respect and compassion towards those who show us the same – this goes especially for teachers, parents and healthcare professionals, who are often the first point of call when it comes to emotional support. If we are met with anger or negativity, its very unlikely we’ll reach out to you again.
4. It takes guts to talk.
Symptoms such as self-harm or sudden outbursts of anger are not just to seek attention. Asking for support (whether that be in the form of a CAMHS referral, hospital visit, or approaching a loved one) takes guts – especially in a world still so full of stigma and judgement. When we are met with hostility, invalidation, anger, or simply stuck on a 4-month waiting list, it’s more than hurtful – its downright soul destroying. Young people face enough challenges as it is, recognising you have a problem takes a great deal of maturity and insight in the first place. Please don’t make it any more difficult than it already has to be.
5. It isn’t always part of ‘being a teenager’
It’s just not that simple – Of course, its no secret that those trademark mood swings and extreme emotions are all part of growing up, but we cant blame it all on raging hormones! Whilst being a little over emotional is normal, if your teenager comes to you concerned about their mental or emotional wellbeing, take it seriously – There’s a big difference between a case of chronic depression and a case of the hormonal-blues
6. We are not doing this to hurt you
I can’t stress this one enough. A while back, I was consoling a friend who’s mother had asked her an emotionally charged question: “why wont you stop hurting yourself for me?” – whilst I have never been a parent and cant begin to imagine how helpless it must feel knowing your child is in such a deep amount of pain, she wasn’t self harming to hurt or get back at her mother. Self-harm (and actually, self destructive behaviour in general) is so much more complex than that – it’s about intense internal pain and relieving negative feelings, many do it to self medicate or even as an addictive behaviour – it is an unhealthy coping mechanism, but a coping mechanism none-the-less… confusingly, the intention isn’t really to hurt, but to help. Making it personal does nothing but create guilty feelings – in most cases, we are extremely worried about hurting you. Even when you don’t know what to say, or have no idea what to do to help – please just be there. Let us know that no matter what, you’re not giving up…
Broken or not, you love us just the same.
**Written in support of Teen mental health week courtesy of Beacon house trauma centre. Thank you to Beacon house for such an amazing opportunity – I really enjoyed writing for #Raisethevolume week, which gave young people across the country a chance to have their voices heard. Thank you for publishing my work! All credit for the wonderful illustrations goes to Helen from the Beacon house media deperatment **