It's Nice to Meet You
My name is Susie. I have three children, the youngest of whom struggles with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Why am I telling you this? Trust me, it’s not because it’s fun to relive the darkest period of our lives. Or to think about all of the mistakes we've made along the way. I am sharing my story because there is not a week that goes by that I am not contacted by someone who has heard my son’s story and has a child struggling as well. There are so many things I wish I had known--before his battle started and while we were in the deepest, darkest days of it. I am talking to other parents and experts so that you will know that you are not alone and there is hope. I am not a therapist, counselor or doctor. I’m just a mom.
My son, Will, has mental health issues. Five years ago things came to a head when he emailed his eighth grade school counselor asking for help. After countless hours in therapy, intensive outpatient treatment, medication, and life changes, Will was on the road to healing. After watching Logic perform “1-800-273-8255” at the 2018 Grammy Awards, Will was inspired to use his love for music to help teens in our local community. The first You Matter Festival was held August 11, 2018. As I think about standing at the top of the stadium as Will was sharing his story with 1,000 people, I remember how terrified I was. I was afraid of being a bad mom. I was afraid of being judged. I felt shame for having a mentally ill child who wanted to end his life at points. My husband and I had kept Will’s struggle to ourselves for months. But just the opposite happened after that night. Will became a local teen spokesperson for mental health, helping break down the stigma of teens talking about mental health problems. He was interviewed on the local news, featured in a local magazine and the local newspaper, asked to speak to teen groups, and to serve on a local campaign to end teen suicide in our area.
Three years ago I took Will to record a video for that campaign called #ZeroReasonsWhy (www.zeroreasonswhy.org). At the completion of Will’s filming, they asked me if I would do a video. At this point I had come a long way from where I was in 2018 about sharing our story. But make a video? Me? What did I have to say that was important? I’m just a mom! Nonetheless I agreed hoping that maybe someone who needed to see it would and that it might help a couple of people.
A few days after the video released, my husband was scrolling through Facebook. “Your video has been seen more than 10,000 times” he told me. I was shocked and perplexed. I didn’t think I had much to contribute or anything special to say. But my husband and I started talking about it, and after some time and research (and personal experience), I realized that parents still aren’t talking about their kids’ mental health problems. And that is exactly why I started the “Just a Mom” podcast. I want to share the real stories of moms and dads who have walked the lonely, scary road of parenting a child with mental illness. I want to bring these stories to parents just like you and me. Parents who feel like no one in the world could possibly know or understand what they are going through. Parents who are terrified their story won’t end well. I want them to know that you and I and countless others felt all of those things. And I want them to hear that we got through it and that our child is still here, and he’s (mostly) thriving. I also want to share opinions of experts, effective programs and professionals' advice. I want you to know that you are not alone, and there is hope.
Our family after the second annual You Matter Festival.
My son Will and me at an awards ceremony for his work in mental health awareness.