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This Happened in the Second Grade

(A story about the importance of helping those in need of mental health help as soon as possible - especially children).

I attended a meeting several years ago. The meeting took place in Vidalia, GA. Those in attendance were members of the police force, educators, people who work in agencies dealing with children and youths, as well as a Juvenile Court Judge. The purpose of the meeting was to kick off a new Crisis Intervention Team program for youths. Mental illness is a major issue in our country and law enforcement, parents, and educators need to be equipped to handle it.

As I listened to the speakers that day, I realized that I had something to say. Something personal. Something from my experience. I wasn’t sure that I should but I felt the need to share something that might be meaningful and relevant. So I raised my hand, stood up, and spoke. I could feel myself getting choked up but I continued. Here is what I said:

In 1998, I was diagnosed with major depression. I couldn’t work, I was hospitalized twice, I had suicidal thoughts, I isolated myself from my family and friends. When I was in the second grade, my teacher sent a note home to my mother. I never saw the note but my mom told me that the teacher, a young, new teacher named Miss Cahn, thought I needed help. I was very shy, quiet, and not very happy. My mom did not take action. I remember her telling me that the teacher didn’t know what she was talking about or something to that effect. Mom didn’t agree with her. I often wonder how different my life could have been had I received the help that I needed. Maybe I would have had the confidence to try out for the little league baseball team. Perhaps I would not have been so embarrassed about my body that I would have taken swimming lessons. Perhaps...

Today, I am considered a high-functioning consumer. I was able to finish high school, earn an undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees, fall in love and marry, raise a family, hold several jobs, and appear to be pretty successful. Yes, I did all that but I hid my feelings of fear, inadequacy, and panic. I didn’t feel like I could say anything so I kept it all inside. Until 1998 when everything fell apart.

So, all of you in this room have the potential to make a difference in the lives of children. My life turned out fine. I have no regrets and I don’t blame anyone. But things could have been different had someone taken action when I was a child.

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