Wednesday, 14 November 2012

"Fighter"

“Life is a fight, but not everyone’s a fighter. Otherwise, bullies would be an endangered species.” ~ Andrew Vachss, Terminal

Today there is a small tear in my heart. I am sad. I feel a bit helpless. Mostly, though, I am mad as hell. My sweet, beautiful nine year old nephew, J, was bullied at school today. He told another, older boy in the schoolyard that the ball he was playing with belonged to another child and that he should give it back. This resulted in J being kicked by the other kid. No, I don't mean a small kick to the shins.

Not a big deal, though, right? Just kids being kids. But it's not the first time that J has suffered at the hands or the words of school bullies. I am not sure what hurts more but I am leaning towards the words.

Oh, and did I mention that it's currently anti-bullying week in Canada? Timely and ironic.

My brother made a great point this evening. He said that if your child is sick, the school will send him or her home right away - can't get the other kids sick! Kind of a preventative measure as the school is looking out for the physical health of the children. What about the mental health of our kids? Where's the prevention there?

When Amanda Todd was lying in a ditch after being beaten up by "schoolmates", a teacher found her there. The teacher turned away and left her. After that Amanda went home, drank bleach, and hoped for death.

Bullying comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms. It can be physical and it can be verbal. However it shows up, it can lead to mental illness in various forms - everything from eating disorders to depression and anxiety, to addiction & substance abuse. Scary things for adults, terrifying for kids & teens.

So what is it going to take? When will that tipping point occur where we all stand together and say that this is not OK? When will society all band together and agree to treat each other, young and old, with respect and dignity? None of this is happening fast enough.

I don't think it's too much to ask that when J goes to school each day, he can expect a safe environment where he can learn and grow. Where he can stand up for another child without fear of taking on the fury of a bully. Is it too much to ask? Am I being unreasonable? But J's story is not the only one. Sadly, there are millions of stories out there, all written by bullies and told by their victims.

It's a cliche but it's true - the children today are the future tomorrow. Don't we want our future to be healthy? Please commit yourself to a better today and a healthier tomorrow for our communities. So how about we change the story? I think we can do it. Actually, I know we can do it. Here's how:

* Defend the underdog
* Act with good intent
* Seek understanding
* Spread kindness
* Listen
* Stand up and be counted

For more information about mental illness in kids & teens please check out the Partners for Mental Health campaign, "Let's Call BS", that is currently on until end of November: http://callbs.ca/#home
You can map your mood, take the pledge, and learn how you can impact change.

J really is a wonderful kid. He is thoughtful, funny, loving, and protective of others. When I spoke to him on the phone tonight to check on him and tell him that I was proud of him for looking after the other kid, you know what he said? "It's OK. I love you."

I love you, too, J. More than you can ever know.

KB xo

P.S. Here's an anthem to inspire: "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PstrAfoMKlc









Tuesday, 6 November 2012

"Let's Call BullS#!T"

"Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle." ~ Christian D. Larson
 
 
I started this blog to take a stand - to raise my voice against the stigma surrounding mental illness. An organization that I proudly support, Partners for Mental Health, does just that.
 
I was first drawn to them back in May with their Not Myself Today campaign which shone a light on mental illness and the huge impact that it has on so many of us - one in four Canadians, to be exact. Well, they are back at it. This time they are focusing their efforts on the future of our country - our youth. Their new campaign is called Let's Call BullS#!T - kind of ballsy and I like it! Yes, let's do that - let's all agree that we need healthy kids to ensure a healthy future for us all.
 
What's the big deal? How can kids be "depressed"? What could they possibly have to worry about? Is this even a legitimate problem? 
 
It's a big problem. Just over one in five Canadian youth suffer from mental illness of some kind. But here's the scary part: only 25% of those kids actually get help. It's hard enough for adults to get help for mental illness. Now consider that you are a child (yes, even young children are afflicted) or a teenager. You may not recognize the symptoms in yourself or maybe you do but the stigma is too much to bear. Most kids just want to be "normal".
 
Remember 15 year old Amanda Todd? After her suicide there were still people who said she did it for attention. Too bad she wasn't around to "enjoy" all that attention. But it wasn't about attention, was it? It was about ending the pain and suffering. Sadly, Amanda, and so many other Amanda's before her, just couldn't hold on. Amanda reached out for help and somehow we, society, didn't do enough. That's not OK. They say that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, the village let her down.
 
Often the wait times for psychiatric treatment or hospital support are ridiculous (weeks or months) and kids can't get the treatment that they need. And sometimes, adults write off the symptoms that we see in our kids as growing pains or hormones or a phase that they will grow out of. There are a million reasons why anyone with mental illness doesn't seek and receive treatment. Do you know which reasons are good ones? None. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
 
As a society we Canadians need to stand together and say that treatment for mental illness is non-negotiable. If you need chemotherapy to treat cancer or insulin for diabetes, you get it. Makes perfect sense. After all, these are diseases that people can die from, right? Well, here's a news flash - people die from mental illness. And it is 100% preventable.
 
So what can we do? How can we impact change? The first step is simple - let's talk about it. And not in hushed or whispered tones. Speak out about your own struggles with mental illness if you have suffered and challenge misconceptions and stigma when you hear them from others.
 
You know what else you can do? Listen to your kids. When they tell you that they are hurting, believe them. Create a dialogue with your kids, your niece & nephew, your grand kids, and the kid that lives next door.
 
Yes, I do believe that it takes a village to raise a child. But we have to come together as that village and we have to call BS on the status quo. Kids are this country's future - don't we want it to be a bright, healthy one?
 
KB xo
 
P.S. Visit Partners For Mental Health's Let's Call BullS#!T campaign: www.callbs.ca

P.S.S. One my favourite inspirational songs by Christina Aguilera: "Beautiful". Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS5k9IcoQH0
 
 
 
 


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