Mental health is not an easy thing to talk about. Bad days are tough enough but if you live in a life with a cycle of them, it gets tougher to feel like people understand.
The Mental Health Awareness patch is offered for Girl Scouts, American Heritage Girls and other scouts through the International Bipolar Foundation, though the patch program doesn’t focus on one mental health condition in particular.
I knew I wanted to use this patch program as a help for my kids. Having a spouse who has struggled periodically with anxiety and depression is challenging enough for an adult to deal with, let alone for a child who doesn’t really understand why mom or dad are not themselves. They didn’t get why dad doesn’t like to get out, or why he sometimes withdraws into himself.
At the same time our family was exploring whether one of our kids did or didn’t have ADHD. Having a framework where it was a neutral discussion of how the brain works versus just the exterior of how a person behaves was a beautiful way to begin. It really transformed the conversation at home. And it’s helped us see our family members in a different way.
What surprised me was what came out of this.
My Cub Scout did a project for his fourth grade class on ADHD and how you can make things more comfortable. He did it because he wanted to help his sister and so she would know she was ok.
My Girl Scout researched coping strategies for students with executive functioning shortcomings and developed a plan to advocate for herself in the classroom. While not all the strategies she tried succeeded, the reality was she had greater confidence and buy in on the tools she tried, versus mom, dad or teachers pushing ideas on her.
And we are much more open about having conversations on those tougher topics.