Parent and mental health advocate Bethany Pierce of Galion, Ohio, reached out for treatment for two of her children for two distinct conditions. Read her own words about her son and daughter’s experiences with counseling.
To the extent you’re comfortable, tell us what first prompted you to connect your children with mental health counseling services.
My son, Cohen, and my daughter, Lila, are the ones who have benefited from mental health services over the past few years. In both situations, it was a process, and both came about in different ways.
When Cohen moved into middle school it was a tough transition for him. My active boy who couldn’t sit still and was always positive became very quiet and withdrawn. He was depressed, but honestly, I didn’t notice at first. He had a wonderful school friend who noticed he was struggling and told her own mother who called me to share their concerns.
Lila’s situation was a little more obvious because she was dealing with anxiety that was presenting in physical ways. In elementary school, she would get terrible stomach aches every morning when it was time to go to school. She would be so worried about tests or getting things “right” at school that she was making herself sick. She was nervous about every new place we had to go to and every new situation she had to deal with. She also was missing almost every Monday at school because she would get so worked up over the weekend, she would end up being sick on Monday mornings.
Describe for us some of the positive changes you’ve seen in your children – or things they’ve shared with you – that have come about as a result of their seeing counselors.
When Cohen started counseling, he was feeling really down about himself. He didn’t have confidence, he was lonely, and didn’t feel like he “fit in.” Having a counselor, someone outside of his everyday life, giving him encouragement and letting him know his feelings were completely normal slowly raised his confidence levels and gave him a more positive outlook on life. She validated his feelings in a way that helped him realize he had worth and value as a person, and showed how he could contribute to his new school in positive ways. She gave him ideas for dealing with his negative feelings when they started to take control. He went from sitting alone at lunch his 6th grade year to winning the election for class president his 9th grade year.
Lila’s anxiety is probably always going to be a part of her life, so she needs more time and opportunities to work through her worries. Lila had several months where her anxiety was lower and she didn’t need counseling, but over the summer she started to get upset about school starting back up, so we went back to counseling. She has a counselor she really likes and looks forward to her hour to get to share. I let her keep her counseling sessions private, and only ask how it went and if she got to talk about everything she wanted. She enjoys having that private time to share her thoughts without her parents scrutinizing what she is saying. Kids really can struggle talking to their parents about difficult things, so that is one of the reasons we think counseling is a great thing. It gives your child a safe place to talk to someone who has training to respond to difficult and challenging situations.
Read Bethany’s thoughts on the need to treat mental health with the same priority as physical health.