"I want to die. I’m done.” Those were the words I heard from one of my children several years ago. It was late one evening, my husband was out of town, and when my son came to me for help, my brain was reeling… I didn’t know what to do.
I’m not alone when it comes to having children, a spouse, or other family members with mental health challenges. As I’ve worked on these issues as a Salt Lake County Councilmember, and on the state’s mental health crisis response commission, I know we need to talk openly and break the stigma. I’m grateful to my family members who have given me permission to share some of our experiences…
A few of my kids have struggled with anxiety — it runs in my family. In fact, I can relate with how they feel because I, too, have battled it. After years of putting myself in high-anxiety situations, meeting with a helpful therapist, and learning my triggers (lack of sleep is the biggest one), I’ve been able to mostly overcome it. But my kids have had to learn in their own ways what their anxiety triggers are, and what they are willing to do to overcome it. I’ve had some kids who gladly met with a therapist, and others who thought they “didn’t need that,” and later realized that therapy is immensely helpful.
I’ve had some of my kids who have tried medication and decided it didn’t help them much, and others who are grateful for modern medicinal miracles. All have realized that solving mental health issues is more than taking a pill. It’s work. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health are intertwined.
I’ve experienced depression as both the patient and the spouse. After my second baby was born, I found myself dealing with post partum depression and it was awful. Feeling like you have nothing to look forward to, and even wondering if your presence on this earth is meaningful is not a pleasant experience, but I gained empathy for those who deal with it.
My husband went through a bout of depression a few years after we were married. I think that being the spouse of someone dealing with depression is far worse than actually being depressed myself. It was the most helpless feeling I had ever felt. I wanted to fix things for him, make him all better, and watching him suffer was difficult to watch. We were lucky it was a short-term issue.
So back to the son at the beginning of this article… I took him to the hospital. And later found out that some hospitals are better for suicidality than others. I learned how hard it is to be the parent of a loved one who was suicidal. Every day I would worry if he slept in too long, or if he didn’t come home on time. I had nightmares about finding him dead. It was such a scary time and I’m so grateful he got the help he needed and is doing so well now! During that time I also found out about an awesome resource that Salt Lake County helps to fund — the UNI Crisis Line. You can call 801-587-3000 anytime to speak with a professional.
My advice to all of you who are struggling or are watching a family member struggle… talk to someone. Don’t suffer in silence. This illness totally sucks for so many reasons. My heart aches for those of you in the throes of this, but hang in there. It can be overcome and the sun will come out tomorrow.
Aimee Winder Newton has served since 2014 and represents Taylorsville, Murray, West Jordan, and West Valley City on the Salt Lake County Council. She was a former 2020 Republican candidate for Utah Governor and was the first woman elected as chair of the Council. Aimee works tirelessly to defend the quality of life in Salt Lake County while protecting tax dollars... [read more]
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aimee winder newton: County Council district 3