I spent my year in Kindergarten with no voice. I wasn’t sick – at least physically. I was afraid to speak, for fear I might reveal a secret no child should be burdened with. And so I kept silent about the abuse that year – and the next 30 years.
Today, I’m privileged to work for The Village – and to help the children and parents served by The Village tell their stories…to give them a voice. I got goose bumps the other day when a clinician in our outpatient clinic shared this quote from a mom, whose seven-year-old daughter received counseling.
“I can’t thank you all enough for what you have done for me and my daughter. Because of you and everyone who helped us, I felt my voice was finally heard. I really feel there is now hope for my daughter to move forward.”
Last week, I met an incredible young woman, who spent her childhood in various group homes and foster care. She has gone on to testify before the US Congress, and write editorial pieces for the Hartford Courant and CT Mirror about how to create a system that better supports children who need a nurturing, protective home. She has definitely found – and raised – her voice. And people listen because she knows what went wrong, has ideas about how things can be better, and isn’t afraid to express her opinions. Next month, Lexie Gruber will be honored by CT Voices for Children with a First for Kids award.
In January, a group of women from West Hartford told Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes about their heart-breaking struggles to find care and treatment for their teenage children suffering with mental health issues.
In June, Erica, a young woman helped by our Intensive Community Program, contacted several television stations to express her concern about the narrowing of the program that helped her go from severe depression to graduating high school (and enjoying all that goes with that), and is excited about attending college. Her voice got a lot of attention – from policymakers to legislators.
Voices are powerful. When they speak the truth – even when it’s painful or harsh – people listen. Personal experiences with child abuse and mental health conditions are not easy topics to discuss. For many, it seems safer to keep quiet, for fear of the stigma associated with these issues.
But, the impact of sharing your perspective and your thoughts about how our health care system can help prevent abuse in the first place and how children and young adults can get the help they need to recover from or cope with mental illness, can be immensely rewarding.
If you have something to say that you’ve been keeping to yourself, if you know how our mental health system could be improved, if you or someone you love has been treated in a way that doesn’t help you find the relief and happiness you deserve, speak out. Your voice matters.