What do you want to be when you grow up? This question is asked to most children their first years of schooling. The most common answers are they want to be doctors, nurses, teachers, or astronauts. In the next decade, however, those big jobs they dreamt of having change and sometimes it’s not for good reasons. Children are the future and at such a young age they are most impressionable. On average, about 20% of teens have experienced depression before reaching adulthood. Those childhood dreams of those big jobs listed before, are now hard to see, so what happened?
Childhood maltreatment is what happened to those once big dreaming children. Childhood maltreatment is the physical and emotional ill-treatment and abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and harm to the child’s health, survival, development, or dignity. Studies show that teens and adults that experienced childhood maltreatment have higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders, aggressive behavior, and suicidal thoughts. It also can contribute to increased drug use and dependency. Not all of the children who experience this will develop a mental illness or do drugs.
Children aren’t taught how to deal with emotions unless they are very obvious (like anger issues.) They should be taught at a young age that it is okay to have feelings and it’s okay to cry sometimes. Coping mechanisms should also be taught. Simple ones like writing feelings in a journal or channeling emotion into exercise. They would greatly benefit both the mind and body. Expressing emotions should also be normalized along with this. I feel children often think it’s best to hold in emotions and that has a negative effect. Letting emotions out and telling someone your story is a good way to not keep it bottled up. Ways I could help bring awareness to this include putting posters up, fundraising, and teaching.
Posters are a great way to get information out. They can be eye catching and very informative. On the poster I would start by saying what mental illness is and common symptoms. After that, I would include various numbers of professionals people could call for help both locally and nationally. The poster would include the colors of mental illness (lime green,) and maybe a few alarming statistics to catch a reader’s eye.
Fundraising is another good way to bring awareness. It is especially good for younger children in elementary school. It keeps the kids involved and interested in the goal. A dress up day and a coin/dollar collection is a great way to get kids involved and raise money. Fundraising could happen on various mental illness days or the international mental health awareness day (October 10.) Schools could even handout bracelets or ribbons.
The last way I can help out is through teaching. It should be taught not only to children but also adults, that mental illness is not a bad thing. Some of the strongest people I know had bad childhoods and dealt with mental illness and are the best and most caring people I know. People that work with children and teens should also be taught how to look for signs of mental issues and child maltreatment. If this can be caught at a young age, children can go back to dreaming big. They can be the doctor or astronaut or what ever their heart’s desire.
By Tinley Nilson, scholarship award winner
UCA’s most recent Scholarship Essay Contest for High School Juniors and Seniors officially ended on November 30, 2020. While the theme has always been to explore ways to make a more caring world, our most recent Essay Contest specifically asked how they would make a more caring world in one of four categories – Children – Animals – Reforestation – Elderly. The winning essays have been posted and awards distributed.
Because there were so many impressive essays submitted from across the U.S., we decided to share many of these students’ inspiring caring actions with you in this publication. Through their essays, the students provide a refreshing insight into their minds and hearts, offering an in depth view of our world that we often overlook. They take us on a journey rich in knowledge, personal experience and creative solutions. It is our hope you will feel as informed and inspired as we do. We are proud to present to you the writings, thoughts and dreams for a more caring future through these articles.