It’s Time to Talk About Mental Health

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pediatric mental health

Last month I attended a press conference at CHOC Children’s Hospital on their new Mental Health Initiative and learned some very eye-opening facts about pediatric mental illness.

The topic is an important one to me yet I have never written about it on my blog. For my entire life I have struggled with anxiety, starting as early as age 4.

But I have never really opened up about my struggles on my blog.

Why? Because I believe there is a very real stigma surrounding mental health. Many people don’t understand mental illness. They think it’s something that the person should be able to change, like “Stop worrying!” or  “Snap out of it!” Not being able to control it can be seen as a sign of weakness.

But for those affected by mental illness, we often can’t control it and need help. 

It took me until age 36 to seek the help I needed which has been ongoing therapy with a psychologist. Why? Because I felt ashamed for needing to seek help.  I also felt weak for not being able to help myself. But no matter what I did to try to stop my anxious thoughts and ruminations, I couldn’t.

With the help of my therapist, I have been able to improve and manage my anxiety. It will never go away, but I now have the tools and self-awareness to know how to cope which has made me an infinitely happier person.

Today I treat caring for my mental health with as much importance as taking care of my physical health.

Pediatric Mental Illness – The Stats 

Here are some statistics to take in on the topic of pediatric mental illness:

1 in 5 children experience a diagnosable mental health problem during childhood.  That’s 150,000 kids in OC, yet there are currently no inpatient psychiatric services (that means no inpatient beds) for children under 12 in the entire county.

In Orange County, 20% of youth reported needing help for mental health problems, while less than 1/3 received help.

Half of children with symptoms of mental health disorders have conditions that cause significant impairment in daily life.

50% of adults with lifetime mental illness had symptoms before age 14.

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in children ages 15 – 19.

18% of high school students have considered suicide in the past year.

Orange County has fewer psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed social workers than the state average.

CHOC Children’s New Initiative to Address the
Pediatric Mental Health Crisis 

Once again, can you even believe there are ZERO psychiatric inpatient beds for children in all of Orange County?  That means children with serious mental health episodes remain in the emergency department for days at a time. To me, that is tragic.

CHOC Children’s is going to make a change in the world of pediatric and young adult mental health.

With a $5 million lead gift by Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, CHOC Children’s goal is to establish a Mental Health Inpatient Center including 18 beds, an outdoor play area and a specially trained staff.

CHOC has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $11 million for inpatient capital and startup costs, and $16 to endow the program. Here is an artist’s renderings of the proposed Mental Health Inpatient Center.


How Can You Help?  

If you are touched by these statistics, and want to help the pediatric mental health crisis, here are some things you can do to help.

1. Start talking about Mental Health and remove the stigma. 

2. Follow CHOC Children’s on social media and join the conversation:

3. If you are moved by these statistics, and want to donate, you can CLICK HERE TO MAKE A MENTAL HEALTH DONATION.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on the topic of pediatric mental health, I would love to hear them in the comments below!


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  1. 1
    Lisa says:

    Bravo Jen. I’ve suffered with panic attacks and postpartum “depression” which in my case showed up as wild mood swings. Not fun. Most people I share this with reveal something of their own. So it is NOT unusual and nothing to be ashamed of. I’m finally at a place in my life where I could literally care less if someone judges me. It doesn’t actually change anything for me. It doesn’t make me feel bad about myself. It makes me not want to be friends with that person. That’s about it.

    • 2
      jen says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Lisa, there is something beautiful about aging that realizes truly that what other people think doesn’t matter, and like you said, if they did judge you, those are not true friends. I feel the same, if I mention my anxiety, I feel others will open up and disclose personal struggles they have had. The more we talk about it, the less stigma will surround mental health. Thank you for sharing your personal struggles. xo

  2. 3
    Melanie says:

    Jen, I have always had so much respect for you, and today I have even more! Bravo for opening up about this topic. Hugs!

    • 4
      jen says:

      Thank you so much – it means more than you know. XOXO

  3. 5
    Susanne says:

    Bravo to CHOC for addressing the issue so wonderful that there will be an incredible new resource for these children. And bravo to you for sharing! Agreed with Melanie- so much respect & love for you!!! Xoxo

    • 6
      jen says:

      Thank you Susanne! I truly feel we need to be as open with our kids about their mental health as we are about their physical health. I am so inspired by what CHOC is doing to address this epidemic. Thanks for your sweet comments. They mean more to me than you know!

  4. 7
    christy says:

    CHOC is so inspiring…and so are YOU! THANK you for sharing your story and being so brave, and for writing such an important blog. I have also struggled with anxiety my whole life, and wasn’t formally diagnosed until I was 29. Mental health NEEDS to be talked about in the open. Because like you said, “Mental health is JUST as important as physical health.” Bravo to you for bringing this topic to light <3

    • 8
      jen says:

      Thank you Christy for sharing your story. It’s amazing when you open up and disclose about your struggles, how people open up to tell you about theirs, which is why I am so happy to be talking about this on my blog. We are not alone – there is help – and my hope is that our next generation will be raised to talk more openly about the topic of mental health.

  5. 9

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