Real-Life Story

How the System Is Not Equipped To Deal With Children & Mental Illnesses

Note: A reader wrote to me about her experience with anxiety since she was a kid. With her permission,  I think it’s good to share and something to ponder about on our education system…

children in schoolBy Annie Elizabeth Martin

It would be simple to begin by listing out statistics regarding how much of our populations children suffer from an array of mental illnesses, or for how and why a huge percentage of them struggle.

But I don’t wish to compile children into mere and uninvolved stats. I wish to speak from personal experience, and show how the educational and social systems have a hand in making these struggles in children ultimately worse.

When I was a young girl, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorders. I had an immense school phobia, I was taken to many therapists, analyzed by many psychologists and school boards, was put on medication, and was almost put in psychiatric facilities.

My parents and teachers didn’t understand the reasons behind my behaviors.

But I especially did not understand them.

What was anxiety? Why was I so scared? Why did school scare me? Why did I always cry? Why did doctors and teachers always look at me like I had done something wrong? Mental illnesses are confusing to anyone at any age, but to a child, it is beyond incomprehensible. The educational systems were one of the keys reasons I struggled. The schools I attended were over stimulating and toxic environments. This originated from my separation anxiety, and the environmental stress and academic work given to me.

Often, teachers and counselors found me to be a burden, or a “bad kid”. Therapists and trained school psychologists never explained to me why I struggled. If anything, I started to feel ambivalence from the adults that were supposed to help me. Eventually I was put on medication by the time I was eight years of age, which I was told would make me better. I had to trust that the adults around me knew what they were doing. But the medication ended up making my problems worse and made me at times hallucinate.

The stares I got, the trouble that found me, the whispers that mumbled, I quickly grew ashamed of the things I couldn’t control. I was made to feel wrong. Bad. Crazy.

I never had anyone genuinely sit me down and explain to me what I struggled with, nor did anyone ever tell me that that was okay.
A vast majority of our schools (and trained counselors) are not supplied the efficient means to help vulnerable children in these situations. I believe this is due to the way developed cultures have stunted the systems and the ways in which the mentally ill as a whole are negatively viewed and ultimately improperly cared for.

What does this say about us a society for the ways in which we care (or lack thereof) for our struggling children? It’s obvious what’s wrong, and it’s not the ones we’ve called crazy. Instead of looking to fix these children, we need to find a way to fix the system.