New Celebrity Campaign Seeks to End the Shame Around Childhood Mental Illness

In the latest Speak Up for Kids campaign, celebrities including Emma Stone, Lena Dunham, and Michael Phelps want kids to know that if they seek help for their struggles, a very bright future lies ahead.
Matteo Chinellatto/Shutterstock 

There’s no doubt that a stigma surrounds mental health struggles and learning disorders. And yet, did you know that celebrities like Emma Stone, Lena Dunham, Michael Phelps, and Jesse Eisenberg have struggled with these very common issues? In fact, of the 74.5 million kids in the U.S., its estimated 17.1 million have or have had some form of a mental health disorder.

In its annual Speak Up for Kids campaign, The Child Mind Institute (CMI) seeks to spread awareness and dispel the shame many people feel about their mental health in a series of powerful, homemade videos called “What I Would Tell My Younger Self” that will run throughout the month of May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month.

In future videos that will roll out throughout the month of May, David Cross, an actor who has struggled with depression, says he would tell his younger self, “Go get some help now. Don’t wait as long as you did. Don’t let it go on for years and years and years. The sooner you get help, the sooner you get over this idea that it means you’re weak or you’re less of a person or you’ve lost to it. You’ll have better days ahead.”

And iconic designer Tommy Hilfiger, who has dyslexia, admits, “I was embarrassed to talk to my teachers and my family about it. But if something is bothering you, if you think you have a challenge, reach out to an adult and allow them to help you.”

Each day in May, a new short video will be released. Viewers can go to SpeakUpforKids.org for more information. More than three dozen stars and influencers participated in the campaign, from authors to fashion designers and politicians.

The overarching message of the collection of videos is that by seeking treatment, struggling kids can have a bright future ahead, much like the celebrity participants in the campaign have had. But if they don’t get help, these kids and teens are at risk for problems at school, substance abuse, and even resorting to dangerous and illegal behaviors. And that is why the campaign’s message is so vital.

“We are grateful to have so many notable figures participating in #MyYoungerSelf and speaking up about such an important topic,” Dr. Harold Koplewicz, Founding President of the Child Mind Institute, said in a press release, adding. “I know that their inspiring stories will help millions of families open up about their own mental health and learning disorders and seek out the help their children deserve.”

He also told us, “Parents should understand that mental health and learning disorders are the most common illnesses of childhood and adolescence. It is important to talk to your kids and watch these inspiring #MyYoungerSelf videos to help them recognize that these are common problems, and when you speak up and get help, you can have a great life.”

Viewers are encouraged to share their feedback as well as their personal experiences on social media using the hashtag #MyYoungerSelf.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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