On the drive home from school today, my son sat quietly in the back, staring out the window. Over the sound of the other four people in the vehicle, I asked him how his day had been. I assume this is where many children with something on their mind would respond with the token "fine" but he answered with "just a high anxiety day."
Conversations such as this remind me of how much has changed since I was a kid. I didn't have the understanding of mental health, let alone the vocabulary, to express myself that simply. I flashback to 10-year-old me in my bedroom doing pushups next to my bed when I couldn't sleep as a way to combat what I now know as my anxiety. There were no role models or classes at school teaching us about anxiety or depression. But lucky for our kids, today is a different story.
Today, our children don't have to look far in order to see strong, male athletes speaking out about mental health issues. In 2018, tight end Trey Burton, famously admitted that his anxiety played a role in whether or not he was ultimately used in a trick play scenario with the Chicago Bears. The same year, NBA Cleveland Cavaliers' player Kevin Love disclosed his very public battle with panic attacks with an essay he called "Everyone Is Going Through Something." Even Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete in history, shares his battle with anxiety and depression in order to raise awareness.
“That’s the reason why suicide rates are going up – people are afraid to talk and open up." -Michael Phelps
While our children face influences we never dreamed of, not to mention living through a global pandemic, at least we are talking about mental health in ways we never have before.
It is not lost on me that speaking out about a mental "weakness" goes against the norm when it comes to athletes. This is a profession that calls for dominance and strength, control of one's body, qualities that aren't always associated with anxiety and depression.
"The thing is, because we can’t see it, we don’t know who’s going through what and we don’t know when and we don’t always know why. Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s part of life."-Kevin Love
And with all this honest sharing, what could be better than a little positive encouragement from Lebron James?
Despite all the additional stressors that our children face, it seems that the stigma surrounding mental health is fading away so our children can grow and learn about their complete health as no other generation has done before.