As a society, we do everything we can to protect our kids. People have started stepping into other’s parenting choices to do what they can to save other people’s children too. We have babies sleep on their backs to try and prevent SIDS, we debate if children should be rear-facing in their car seats until they’re four to help keep them safer in a car wreck. There are discussions about baby monitors and breathing monitors and people call the cops when an eight-year-old walks home alone two blocks. It seems like we’re wildly (overly) concerned with the safety of children, ours and others.
Today I was thinking of how we handle a child who is suicidal. Too often, I hear people say that suicidal thoughts are just someone looking for attention. Even cutting is considered to be ‘attention-seeking lite’ in a way. We look out for a child’s safety in so many ways, why not try to keep them safe from themselves? Mental illness still has such a stigma around it that people would prefer to leave alone an obviously hurting child instead of risking their death. Even if the child (and for that matter adult) is just looking for attention, if they’re that desperate why not give it to them? These are kids who are obviously hurting. There is a problem, it should be talked about.
When society addresses mental health, it tends to be all talk and no action. My daughter has brought projects home on nutrition, stranger danger, fire safety, and exercise, but they haven’t talked about mental health. Maybe it’s because she’s young, at least I hope that’s the case. I fear that it won’t be covered at all, or if it is it won’t be covered well. If it’s anything like my time in school, mental health will be glossed over and mentioned in passing in fifth grade so the block can be checked.
America has an ongoing conversation (I unfortunately don’t think it rises to the level of debate) about sex education – how young it should start and what the curriculum should be. Why isn’t there a great debate to make sure the best emotional education is being taught too? Why aren’t we as parents demanding that this issue is addressed by the schools, and addressed well. Sadly, I would guess that most children aren’t learning about it at home either. These are the hard conversations that we have to have with our kids. The hardest ones are the most essential. We owe it to them.