A quote I often find repeating in my head is from the movie “Hope Floats” that states:
“Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome.”
It's not necessarily that we have all had a tumultuous upbringing, but, all of us have adopted a way of coping and decision making that forms in our youth, and solidifies between the ages of 13-19.
May is Mental Health month, a topic that I am extremely passionate about and dedicate my work to, as a survivor of war, abandonment, and abuse.
Feeling and dealing my way through the aftermath of these issues took me over 15 years, 3 states, 1 island, several failed attempts at partnership and suicide. This journey showed me how we, as doctor’s, therapist’s, families, and individuals, approach mental health. It took 4 suicide attempts before I was able to finally find a solution for my pain, through CBT and yoga - not the pills the doctors gave me.
photograph by Valerie Owhadi
We have gotten lazy. Disconnected.
We put no emphasis on restoring mental or emotional health. Rather, we try to shove it down with medication, chase feeling happiness through status, or fill our hours with mindless distractions like social media, and binge watching Netflix.
We don’t know how to cope.
So, we don’t show our children how to cope, instead we continue the cycle by reacting negatively towards them as they develop their mental health: thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
There is a great cost to to us as a nation for not investing in mental and emotional health. It’s called suicide.
A study Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last month shows suicide is at rates are at a 30-year high, increased by 24% - 40,000 people a year die from suicide. This epidemic costs us over $44.6 billion a year in combined medical and work loss costs.
photograph by Valerie Owhadi
The emotional and financial burdens that come with ignoring mental health will only multiply.
There is great shame and weakness that surround the topic of emotional and mental health. The mission of my work is to break this stigma, to start the conversation, and to save lives. I have shared this message with my local media, and I encourage you to do the same, see my letter to the editor of Houston Chronicle.
This rise of this epidemic has felt like a slap in the face, not an angry one, but a wake-up one.
Since launching SP2: Sahar Paz Suicide Prevention this January, every 7-10 days a teen suicide in my city alone (Houston and surrounding area), is brought to my attention.
I grew up in Iran where bombs killed my friends. Here in the States kids are taking their own lives. We have to do something.
If you or someone in your life is having a hard time right now, please buy them a copy of my book, Find Your Voice. It is a memoir - I share transparently - the grit and the grace - of feeling my emotions, and changing the way I cope.
The reader is offered a reflection guide that reveals the relationship between thoughts and emotions - understanding and changing destructive thinking patterns. And, if you have a teenager in High School, let the teachers and counselors know that there is a new program available to empower them and their students in the fight against bullying and suicide.