There has been a lot of media coverage lately of the youth mental health crisis, which is particularly bad here in Calgary. And it’s about damn time. I’ve known about this crisis for a long time now, because I’ve been part of it. And it’s getting worse, not better.
My oldest daughter has anxiety. And not just your garden-variety anxiety, either. I’m not talking about getting a nervous tummy before a big test or having rubbery knees before the big game or a dance recital. What I’m talking about is paralyzing, crippling Anxiety with a capital A.
Social Anxiety Disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They’re all pieces of the same scary puzzle. And all pieces of my little girl.
All across Canada, childhood anxiety is on the rise. And it doesn’t just make for kids who are nervous and cling to the apron strings longer than might be expected. This mental illness can impact children’s lives in ways that many of us cannot even fathom. Kids drop out of beloved extracurricular activities, lose friends, can’t continue to attend school. Without ongoing and prolonged treatment, the future of these kids can be very bleak. What if you couldn’t go to school because you were too scared to leave home? What would your future look like?
So when I heard Kaitlin Hrudey and her dad (ex-NHLer Kelly Hrudey) tell their story, as part of “Know the Signs” (a national campaign by the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project highlighting five early warning signs to help parents identify possible indicators of childhood mental illness), I was amazed, relieved and given a renewed sense of hope.
As I read this article in the National Post, I felt like it was my own daughter’s story:
‘The breaking point was the first day of school in 2005. Kaitlin Hrudey sat, paralyzed, in her mother’s car in the school parking lot. She couldn’t get out.
“She literally became a prisoner of her own thoughts,” her father says.’
I was so moved and inspired by Kaitlin’s brave words:
“I decided to talk about this because I don’t want other kids to feel like they have to keep it in, or to feel like [having a mental illness] is something embarrassing.
“It is not. It took me a long time to realize that. And you are not alone. It gets better, and it will never be as bad as it seems in the beginning. And if I can just help some people…”
And I know just how proud Kelly Hrudey is of his daughter, because it’s exactly how I feel about my own brave girl. Despite all the heartbreaking setbacks, I am so, so proud of her.
“I’ve met superstars. I’ve met celebrities. I’ve met all these people in my life, but what Kaitlin has accomplished and what she has gone through in her life to get where she is — it has been a long road — and I am just so proud of her.“I am just so proud.”
Parents: make sure you know the five warning signs of childhood mental illness, and don’t hesitate to seek out treatment.
- Mood changes/swings: Persistent sadness or withdrawal.
- Anxiety: Frequent, prolonged worrying.
- Sudden change in grades: Poor concentration can lead to anxiety about going to school or a change in classroom success.
- Heightened emotions: Exaggerated fear or anger for seemingly no reason.
- Behavioral changes or acting out: Out-of-character changes in behavior or personality.
And finally thank you, Kaitlin and Kelly, for coming forward and letting the rest of us know that we’re not alone. And that there is hope.
This post was not sponsored by RBC or any other organization.
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