There’s a New Form of Stigma Around Mental Health and It’s Extremely Dangerous
Everyone seems to recognize that there is an uptick in the number of kids dealing with mental health issues. There are a ton of theories as to why that is, and most of them are wrong. Or, at least, they are incomplete. They tend to be simplistic; “social media”, the news, bad parenting, etc. The truth is likely a much more complicated combination of all of those things but when we focus on the simple answers we can fool ourselves into thinking there are simple things we can do to fix it.
We have all of this noise about kids’ mental health but the one thing that we know does work is being not just ignored but protested against.
I started noticing it when the news stories hit about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and mental health programs in schools.
Many of us had a difficult time understanding why any parent would not want their kids to be able to talk about their emotions and their mental health, but then it all started coming together. Adolescents who have a place at school to talk openly might talk about gender and sexuality. Because having questions about those things is fairly normal at that stage of development. They might also want to talk about racism, climate change, violence, and gun control because those things are in the news and impact their current and future lives.
It wasn’t enough to say we’d prefer our kids talk to parents about those things instead of someone at school. Probably because that would require those parents to have a relationship with their kids that is safe for those discussions when many of them do not. Instead, they had to attack it from the other side. And attack they have. “Don’t say gay” bills, book banning, drag show protests, and other legal maneuvers have made it illegal in many states to even suggest that kids could be anything but straight and Christian. Providing a safe place to talk about emotions and mental health might just be a way to hide those same conversations, so they must be eliminated too.
That also wasn’t enough. To make sure they got these bills passed, they have now convinced themselves that anyone who wants to encourage kids to talk about sexuality and gender, let alone accept that there are LGBT people in the world are grooming them.
The overlap has been under the hood but yesterday it became crystal clear to me in the Louisiana State House.
During a committee hearing to consider a ban on all gender-affirming care, a doctor testified about the mental health damage that will do to trans children. The response I saw from a reporter on Twitter was illustrative.
Pasternak mentioned a pediatric psychiatric hospital in his testimony. “You might want to check that place for grooming,” Rep. Cox said #lalege #lagov
— Piper Hutchinson (@ByPiperHutch) May 2, 2023
If you can’t read that, or Twitter starts blocking embeds again – at the mention of a pediatric psychiatric hospital Rep. Cox said “You might want to check that place for grooming”.
Yes, the very mention of providing mental health care for children is met with a suggestion that it is a place for grooming. Because, of course, anyone who encourages kids to talk about their mental health is out to groom them for sexual abuse.
This is a dangerous path that we are on. There’s the obvious risk, when kids have no mental health resources made available because parents are convinced that all mental health treatment is a cover for groomers. There’s also the very real risk of violence against teachers and mental health professionals. We’ve already started to see violence against the LGBT community. This will only increase the more these groups are allowed to continuously expand their definition of who is a groomer to include anyone who doesn’t think as they do or believes that kids should be encouraged to learn and explore the world around them, including people who don’t look or act as they do.
There will be violence. There will be murders and we’ll lose more than a few kids to suicide. The only question is how long that will continue before everyone who supports this violence with their words or deeds is voted out of power.
If your god requires you to inflict damage on kids’ mental health and threaten, or even commit, violence against anyone who encourages kids to talk about mental health, you need a new god.