Ignorance is dead.

My mental health struggles began when I was 10. They did not get diagnosed until I was 20. I don’t blame anyone for this time span. It is no one’s fault. But it hurt me.

At the time my issues started mental health was never spoken of except in the context of someone who was locked up in an institution. As I got older and my condition got worse I do remember my parents asking me if I wanted to talk to someone, but at that point, to me that just meant they thought I was crazy. They didn’t think that! But that is how I felt so my pushback was swift and direct. Seeing someone was not an option for me. I was unaware of what was going on, I was ignorant toward the seriousness of my situation. Ignorance is not in fact bliss.

Often times the word ignorant is seen as dumb but that is not what it means. Ignorant just means unaware or lacking knowledge. I didn’t know how bad I was. No one did.

Now I do know, but for years though I didn’t share. I felt like I couldn’t share. Or if I did share I was met with the damaging statements that made me feel worse about my situation. I heard things like “You just need to change your attitude.”, “Why don’t you ask God to heal you?”, “Whatever that sin is in your life you need to repent of it. God is never going to help you until you get your act together.” Again ignorance was holding me back. This time it was the ignorance of others.

I no longer am willing to let ignorance hold me back. One of the beautiful things about knowing that I struggle is that I now have the opportunity to share my knowledge of the struggle. Unfortunately I can’t help everyone.

So here is your opportunity.

You have the chance to be brave. I say brave because that are people who will still judge out of ignorance. There are people who will fight you tooth and nail to say that you need to be silent.

Ignorance was an excuse when I was young. There is too much information for that to be acceptable anymore. The thing is, information is only as good as its delivery system. If a message is not delivered then it is no message at all. To have the strength to share our message we need to remember what our motivation is to share.

Think of ten year old me, and all of the ten year olds’ that are like me in the world. I was not an anomaly. There are kids all over that are in the same situation that I was in. I would ask that you would be willing to be brave for them. Like I said, the ten year span from onset to diagnosis hurt me. No child needs to suffer that same fate. Early intervention saves lives and prevents suffering.

50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. And each one of those youth are watching. They are watching to see if we care. They are silently screaming for help and hoping that you will still hear them. I watched, I screamed. Hindsight shows me that. This is not something that has changed.

Today May 10th is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. I would encourage you to reach out, open up, & be brave. They are waiting for you. They may not show it but they are.

I am including a link to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) web site. The link contains facts about adolescent mental health and some warning signs to watch for. I would encourage checking that out and visiting http://www.nami.org for valuable resources. Ignorance is dead.


Nate Stewart

National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery

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