Parents Must Talk to Their Children about Mental Health

On a seemingly typical night at home my daughter texted me and asked me to come into her bedroom to chat. I paused the episode of Law & Order: SVU, slid into my slippers and shuffled across the hall into her room. For the next hour, I sat as she poured her little heart out. My daughter was contemplating suicide. This was the first time my daughter had had such a deep conversation about her emotional and mental health. Thankfully it wouldn’t be the last.
That night my family’s life would change.
It was the night we realized that speaking about our mental and emotional health was paramount to keeping all of the members of my family alive and well.

My Daughter Told Me All About Her Mental Health

I knew my daughter had been having a hard time adjusting to high school and that something had been going on with some friends she used to have; but I didn’t know how heavy all of this was for her.  

She told me she had been feeling overwhelmingly sad and that she could not shake it. She felt like there was something wrong with her because she could never seem to be truly happy. Of course, it didn’t help that both of her grandparents had passed away recently. I consoled her and assured her that she was not alone; that every person feels the same at some point or another.

But then she blindsided me with the details of her thought process. The day before she had shared an anecdote about a car that had almost hit her. What she had left out however, and told me then, was that she had purposely slowed down when she’d seen the car coming. She slowed down in the hopes that it would hit her because, she said, she felt that it would be easier for her to be dead than to feel as helpless as she had been feeling.

Hearing About Her Mental Health Was Rough and Necessary

I’d like to say I handled that revelation like a champ. That I consoled her, reassured her and ended the talk with her feeling better.

The truth is, I didn’t.

The truth is that I tried to be articulate, but I cried. I explained to her that to lose her would literally kill. That there is no Earth on which I would be able to live without her. I bawled like a baby while telling her that her dying would destroy myself, her father and her little brother. We could not lose her.

My husband and I consulted with our insurance. Two days later we got her an appointment with a therapist close to us. She saw the therapist for a couple of months, but it wasn’t a good fit. Ultimately, she assured us she was better and stopped seeing him.

Mental Health Conversations Are Ongoing

Last Spring, she and I were talking in our kitchen. I always knew something was off with her. That she was carrying something in her soul. I never suspected it was bad news but I knew there was something inside of her that she carried that she could not release. I always assured her, as I did my son, that I would love, adore and be there for them for eternity, no matter what. But she needed to get there herself.

So, I waited for her to release it.

That day, casually discussing tattoos and piercings, gossiping about friends and relatives and talking about life, she came out to me.

I cannot say with absolute certainty that she felt a weight off of her shoulders, but I believe in my heart that she did breathe easier. I told her that I always knew there was something she carried and that I hoped she could now rest easier knowing that she no longer had to carry it alone.

She came out to my husband the next day, and her brother month later.

Mental Health Wellness is a Process

But she is still depressed.

Over this past summer, she came to me again. Same M.O.- a text to come to her room for a chat. And again, she spilled. She had eyed her Sertraline that morning and contemplated taking the whole bottle.

We made the call the next day, got her into an outpatient group at the hospital and in with a therapist and psychiatrist.

Since then, a few things have changed. She no longer holds her own medication, something her PCP had never explained. I hold that now and distribute it accordingly. Her dosage has increased and she sees her therapist and psychiatrist separately, once a month. She does anxiety and therapeutic exercises and she gabs on the ride home each time, sharing what she learned or what she still can’t figure out.

She is still the same sarcastic 16 year-old girl that now jokes about taking antidepressants and openly talks about her sexuality with ease and comfort.

But it doesn’t matter how she seems on the outside. Because I know that on the inside, everything could be different. I know that the exterior could paint one picture while the interior is suffering and hurting. I know this because while I do not actively suffer from depression, for the past 38 years, I have quietly suffered on the inside. The outside is on point, but the inside is broken and cracked.

Establishing Routines Helps All of Us

So, every single day, at approximately 1:30pm, I call her. We Facetime, we chat, we text. Every single day that I am apart from her, no matter the reason or event, I reach out to make sure that she is okay. And she knows why I do this. She knows that my biggest fear is that one day I’ll come home from work and that’ll be the day she chose to kill herself. So, she indulges me and puts up with the calls and texts and Facetimes and the silly gifs and the funny memes.

When I walk through the door at 5:15pm every evening and I see her there, I’m the one that breathes a little easier.

Depression does not go away with medication; it is merely managed.

Robin Williams.

Suicidal thoughts never really disappear; they ebb and flow like the tide, some days worse than others.

Kate Spade.

Feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt don’t disappear just because a person is surrounded by love and acceptance.

Anthony Bourdain

If you have a teenager that suffers from depression, listen to them. Believe them. It is not a disease that is treated and eradicated with medication.

LGBTQIA Youth Need Support

And if you have a teenager that is LGBTQ, for the love of God, accept them. Open your arms and embrace them and tell them that you will love them until the day you die because that day could come sooner than you expect. A child that does not believe that they are loved will not fight to live, they won’t fight to love themselves and they will give into the darkness.

I don’t know if depression and being LGBTQ go hand in hand. But for my daughter, it does. So, I will not let either of those be the reason I lose her.


Yokairy Tavarez is an author, with five published novels available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She is also a Paralegal and Child Custody/Visitation Mediator with a twenty-year career in the legal field. She currently resides in New York with her husband and two children. Visit www.yokairytavarez.com