You’re never too young to have a mental illness

In spring 2015 my 9 year old son revealed to me that he “thinks a lot about suicide”. I asked him where he learned about suicide and he couldn’t remember specifically, but I personally know there is one mention of it in Matilda, a children’s book by Roald Dahl. Our son is an advanced reader so I’m sure he could have read about it in one of his books. Obviously I was very alarmed.

Long story short, my husband and I turned him over to a mental hospital for 4 days. It was not what I expected we’d be doing, and it was the longest 4 days of our lives. Funny enough, he remembers that time fondly. He bonded with his room mate. It was a very strange time for us. My husband and I had differing views on this hospitalization. I felt that if they thought was necessary, we should do it, and my husband was very against it. He was afraid they would take our son away and refuse to give him back. This turned out to be an unrealistic fear.

Previously, I had taken him to a social worker to help him with things like routines at home and learning about respecting me and my husband, things that I was struggling to teach him myself and wanted some help with. Even the social worker had no idea of these thoughts he was having.

I am writing about this now to tell people that you’re never too young to have mental issues. You don’t need a reason to have mental issues. It doesn’t mean you’ve been neglected or mistreated or that you’re weak or dumb. We provide for our son-he is fed, clothed, provided with the things he enjoys doing, has friends and does well at school. He’s not bullied or struggling with anything but these inner demons. Every day he struggles with “just wanting to feel happy”.

If your child is expressing feelings of unhappiness and you feel there is “no reason” for it, do not dismiss them. Children’s feelings need to be validated just like adults do. We are still struggling with how to help our son. We feel he’s too young for medication. We check in with him often and make sure he knows we care and that there are people he can talk to about his feelings even if he doesn’t want to talk to us. It’s extremely frustrating, feeling like we provide everything we can but he’s still not happy. But we never give up and we all try every day to be kind to each other.

IMAlive has helped teach me how to talk to him and reflect his feelings so that he will give more information back to me and work through things.

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