by Berk Pryor
When being tasked with the responsibility of becoming a caregiver at a young age, emotional and psychological effects are more prevalent. When I was around the age of 7 years old, I was called on to become a caregiver for my mother who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Having a family member, specifically my mother, diagnosed with a severe illness in the early stages of my life, was especially tough. Seeing what this devastating disease did to someone who held such an important place in my life, was even worse. Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic disease that progressively gets worse, damages the sheaths of nerve cells in both the brain and spinal cord. Side effects include numbness, difficulty with speech, memory loss, fatigue, and blurred vision. The prognosis for Multiple Sclerosis typically results in those diagnosed needing assistance with mobility, with the use of a walker or wheelchair. In progressive cases, this disease can be fatal.
My teenage years came around, and things went downhill for me, both mentally and physically. I found myself becoming a horribly anxious individual, which eventually led to depression. I understood the fact that it’s a period all children go through, but my case was worse than others. I gained a massive amount of weight, an amount that I still to this day, am working to lose. I quickly became insecure, wearing oversized hoodies during warm weather, wearing a shirt while swimming, and eating unhealthy amounts of food until I felt satisfied. It was shocking to have all these shortcomings take away many aspects of life I once enjoyed and loved, as nothing traumatic had happened to me.
Some people are known to just be chemically imbalanced, where things like this just happen. With hopes of reducing the anxiety, sleepless nights, and unhealthy diet habits, I started taking a mild dose of antidepressants. I was not thrilled about this, as I doubt any child or teenager would be about having to take a pill every day for the unforeseeable future.
With years passing by, still being on medication, these long-term mental issues still affected me. Sometimes, we get so absorbed focusing on others, that we forget to take care of ourselves. The importance of self-care will not only directly affect the outcome of your career, but your life as well.
I have noticed that the world my generation lives in, has paved the way for future generations to be more outspoken regarding mental health issues, however, the stigma that looms over us is still creating a cloud that does not allow us to feel completely comfortable with this subject matter.
According to WebMD, nearly 5 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with some type of mental illness. In any given year, 20% of American children are diagnosed with mental illness. Nationwide, there are approximately 1.3 to 1.4 million child caregivers, ranging from ages 8-18 years old.
The American Psychiatric Association is an organization of Psychiatrists that work together to ensure humane care and effective treatment to those diagnosed with mental illnesses. This utilization of Psychiatrists has hoped for minimizing or ridding those of mental health issues. According to the APA, their mission is, “to advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.” (“Homosexuality and scientific evidence: On suspect …”)
Another organization, NAMI, which stands for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has the main goal to ensure that people receive help early. NAMI provides a variety of resources for all, whether it deals with education, advocacy, support, or public awareness, with the overall goal that each of these individuals and families that have been affected by mental illness, can live a better life.
The development of a set plan to reduce the severity and longevity of these health issues, along with providing more resources to those who self-harm, or have suicide attempts, as when attempting to take your own life, occurs in multiples. A stigma exists within our generation, where discussion of mental health issues is not a comforting subject to many. We are responsible for breaking the recurring cycle and promoting better health outlooks for all. I ask that each of you takes the time to ask those who suffer from mental illness or provide care to a family member, friend, or anyone, how they are holding up. It may not seem like a lot to you, but it could make a world of difference knowing their thoughts and feelings are being validated and recognized.
“About APA Archives.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/about/apa/archives/mission#:~:text=The%20stated%20mission%20of%20APA,society%20and%20improve%20people’s%20lives.&text=We%20promote%20the%20mission%20of,means%20of%20promoting%20human%20welfare.
“Kids, Teens and Young Adults.” NAMI, https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.
“Mental Health: Mental Illness in Children.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-illness-children#:~:text=Nearly%205%20million%20children%20in,diagnosed%20with%20a%20mental%20illness.
“Welcome to IAC.” IAC, https://www.iac-irtac.org/. “Who Are Family Caregivers?” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/faq/statistics#:~:text=Nationwide%2C%20there%20are%20approximately%201.3,Alliance%20for%20Caregiving%2C%202005).