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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Break The Silence, Break The Stigma

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Lisa Zarcone
Lisa Zarconehttps://www.lisazarcone.net
Regional Director for New England AREA/ NAASCA Ambassador (MA) - 2021 Heroine Award Recipient (MA)-Child & Mental Health Advocate -Public Speaker-Author-Blogger-Podcast Enthusiast- Radio Personality

Mental Health Awareness Month 

As we are stepping away from child abuse/sexual awareness month, and placing our feet firmly into Mental Health Awareness Month, we are continually reminded that we still have a very long way to go in regards to awareness and change.

There are many things going on in our world right now that are affecting everyone’s mental health, especially our youth. During the pandemic, child abuse, domestic violence, depression, and suicide all rose to record breaking numbers. We are still feeling the aftermath from this very difficult time period.

As our youth made their way back to the classroom, the damaged had already been done. They were filled with high anxiety, depression, and internal anger. This time of isolation and home schooling brought about a new set of problems for all of our children. 

Now, imagine being the child who was living in a household filled with dysfunction, violence, and abuse. How did they fare up? I can tell you, not well at all. For many of our youth, school was their only safe haven, where they were cared for and nurtured.

The security blanket of school was pulled away in the blink of an eye. 

This is why mental health and child safety go hand in hand. We must find balance in how our children are cared for, not only in the classroom, but in the home. As adults we must be proactive in caring for our overall mental health. It is our moral responsibility to do so, because our thoughts and actions affect all that are involved in our daily circle of life.

I personally lived in a dysfunctional household, riddled with abuse.

As a young girl growing up, my own mother suffered from severe mental illness, which was quite a complex mixture of depression, mania, psychosis, and grief from the loss of her only son. She also suffered from diabetes and a thyroid condition. This combination of mental and physical diseases fought against one another for years as she battled it all ferociously. She could never find balance.

Many times, she was misdiagnosed because she was such a complex case. You can imagine the chaos that was going on inside of her body and mind. Unfortunately, there were limitations and lack of knowledge at this time in our lives (the 1970s era), and mental illness in general was frowned upon (The Stigma). The term “Being Mentally Healthy” was not a thing during this time period. You just didn’t talk about it, which further complicated my mother’s conditions.

The question that always comes to my mind is this. 

“When a parent or guardian is mentally struggling without proper support, who helps the child”?  This is a daunting question!

Long story short my mother fell through the cracks of a flawed and limited support system—and I fell with her. We tumbled into a dark hole together. My mother’s instabilities opened me up as prey, because my mother was making very poor decisions. She allowed many strangers in our home from all walks of life. 

During her times of mania, she felt like she could conquer the world with her psychotic strength. Then in her times of what she called “the great depression,” she was like a lead balloon basking in deflated air. You can imagine what all of this dysfunction did to me as a child. As time when on, I was subjected to mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse (sexual abuse was by another source). 

Because of the lack of care and support, my mother’s mental illness festered to the ultimate levels, and she unknowingly brought a perpetrator right into our home and basically offered me up to him. Her rational thought process was clouded by the voices inside her mind.

I was a twelve-year-old little girl already damaged by my traumatic home life, and this was the icing on the cake. The abuse I endured was horrendous, and the daily battle was excruciating.

I am sharing all of this, not to put my mother or mental illness down, but to bring awareness to people. This is what happens when someone who is struggling from this disease does not get the help that they so deserve. Bad things can and do happen. The repercussions of “lack of support” travel on throughout a whole family!

We need to continue to advocate for mental health and break the stigma of silence. I say this so many times “Silence can be deadly!”  It is not just a physical death; it is an emotional death.

Mental Health struggles comes in many forms. 

We say mental illness, but that is a broad term. There are countless people young and old struggling from PTSD (due to trauma/abuse/combat), depression (chemical imbalance), mania, psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety, suicide ideation, etc. The list goes on as there are many different components, terms, diagnoses, and physical health factors that can play into this whole equation. 

The best defense that we have to combat this problem is to talk about it, learn about it, and be proactive about it. This is why I say mental health and child safety go hand in hand because I was on the latter end of this problem. I suffered tremendously because of lack of knowledge!

I have struggled with my own mental health issues due to the abuse that I endured. It has taken me years to sift through the ashes and deal with the rubble of my past to clear the air and reclaim a strong mindset. I do not wish this battle on my worst enemy because the pain and suffering can be unbearable, and far too many people get sucked up into that madness—and do not make it out alive!

I am one of the lucky ones, and I am so grateful! Now, I can stand here today stating my case because of all the work that I put in. The healing journey is a long treacherous road of countless uphill battles, but the worthiest battle that you will ever face in our life!  

I also believe I am here for a reason and that is to raise awareness, educate and share my personal experience with all of you, so that maybe one day more children will be saved from this horror and more people who struggle with mental health issues are acknowledged and helped.

People who are struggling deserve validation.

We can do great things together if we can support one another along the way. I ask you to take the time and educate yourself on mental health issues and learn how to get beyond the stigmas.

I ask you to STAND WITH ME, as we raise awareness together.

Look around you right now—what do you see?  There may be someone sitting right next to you struggling tremendously inside his/her mind and you do not even know it.

TIME TO BREAK THE SILENCE ONCE AND FOR ALL.

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