LANSING, Mich. — On Wednesday, December 4th, the Williamston Community Schools brought in national speaker Will Heininger to speak to both students and parents about mental health and the importance of opening up a conversation within the community about this invisible concern.
Will Heininger started the day speaking with 8-12th grade students about depression, anxiety and other mental health issues and how to address these concerns if they are showing symptoms of this. The day concluded with a session for parents and community members.
The evening session started with a powerful video (See Below) about the experience of Will Heininger and his struggle with depression and anxiety while a football player for the University of Michigan.
As Heininger shared, while he was finishing his freshman year in college, he started to have "no motivation; no pleasure in anything...all the classic signs of depression, but I did not know it."
The challenge was that he "was afraid to let anyone know that I was struggling."
Things started to turn for him when an athletic trainer at U of M noticed that he was in distress and got him to a therapist which started him on a journey toward overcoming his depression.
The challenge for schools and parents is that 50% of mental illness manifests itself by the age of 17 and 75% by age 24-25. Heininger made it clear that all of us need to realize this and make sure that people start to have open conversations with their kids to let them know that it is safe for them to share their concerns about mental health if they do manifest for themselves or their friends.
Some of the warning signs that your children may be struggling with mental health include changes in:
Heininger mentioned that if parents are noticing these symptoms, it is important to talk to your kids about this and allow them to speak with no judgment.
"Our goal is to eliminate the stigma," Heininger said. "The same way we can recognize a physical injury, we should be able to pay attention to and understand our mind, brain and thoughts. And if that is taking us away from our goals and not making us feel good, we should know that's a part of our body that needs attention, just like any other physical injury."
In the end Heininger shared that "we have too many suffering in silence" and he has made it his goal in life to help kids and parents understand mental health and what they can do to move toward overcoming mental health challenges.
If you or your child are struggling with mental health issues, you can find some resources to assist you below:
- SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Community Mental Health
- Michigan Mental Health Networker
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