Mental Health Awareness: Teaching Children About Your Own Mental Illness

As we continue to navigate through Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to share part of my
personal journey battling Clinical Depression and Anxiety for the last 23 years. Now, I’m not saying I’ve
been constantly depressed and anxious for the last two decades. Rather, depression and anxiety are like
any other problems in life. They ebb and flow just like the ocean’s tides. Fortunately, for those who have
a mental illness, there are many options for life-saving resources when the waves get stronger. I’ve been
blessed to have many life jackets thrown my way over the course of my journey – none stronger or more
appreciated than God.

I was officially diagnosed with Clinical Depression and Anxiety for the first time when I was 18 years old
after a suicide attempt. At that point, I felt like I’d reached my limit for the pain brought about from a
traumatic childhood full of family drama worthy of a Jerry Springer episode. After I got out of the hospital,
I was thrown my first “life jackets” – my mother’s best friend and her husband. I went to live with them for
several months until I moved away for college and their loving, stable home was exactly what I needed to
give me hope for a better life. I met my second “life jacket” in college, Luke, who has been my husband
for the last 15 years. His medical knowledge helped me recognize that depression and anxiety are
legitimate health problems and not something to be ashamed of. The way I’ve explained it to my children
is that “Because I went through a lot of trauma as a child, I need therapy to help heal my heart. Because
I consistently felt stress as a child, the chemicals in my brain got altered and so I need medication to help
heal my brain.”

Sharing part of my journey is not to say that I’m an expert on mental health. My background is in
education, not psychology. However, I hope that by being more open I can let those of you who have a
mental illness or have a loved one who has a mental illness know that you are not alone.
There are some wonderful resources out there, including many that can be found directly on our church’s
website at LOC Care and Support-Mental Health. A specific article that I’d like to refer to those of you
who would like to start the conversation about mental illness with your children is “Talking to Your Kids
About Mental Illness” by Kathleen Boros, which can be found on the National Alliance on Mental Illness
(NAMI) website at Nami November 2018 Blog. For parents battling depression who would like to talk to
their children about their mental illness, I would recommend the following children’s books:
• Sad Days, Glad Days: A Story about Depression by DeWitt Hamilton
• The Color Thief: A Family’s Story of Depression by Andrew Fusek Peters
• Why Are You So Sad?: A Child’s Book about Parental Depression by Beth Andrews
• Can I Catch It Like a Cold?: Coping with a Parent’s Depression by Centre for Addiction & Mental Health
• Mommy Stayed in Bed this Morning: Helping Children Understand Depression by Mary Wenger

For parents battling anxiety who would like to talk to their children about their mental illness, I
recommend the following children’s books:
• Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho Yen
• The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
• All Birds Have Anxiety by Kathy Hoopmann
• Cloudy Days: When Anxiety Hides the Sunshine by Sarah Frank
• The Day: A Short Story about Anxiety by David Kiefer

Lastly, I would like to give a shout-out to LOC’s amazing Healing and Wholeness Ministry. Our mission is
to deepen our experiences, efforts and programs at LOC to foster healing and wholeness. If you are
interested in joining our ministry, you can contact me directly at

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