Author: Karen Copeland
It’s been 10 months since I started writing and sharing my thoughts, learning and experiences as a parent of a child who experiences mental health and other challenges. When I started this blog, I wanted to be able to share a very real perspective of the challenges we have faced as a family, but also give readers the opportunity to pause, consider and reflect on a perspective they may never have been exposed to before. Will my experiences or ideas fit for all readers? Of course not! However that does not mean I do not have the right to share them.
I would say I have had a number of opportunities come my way because I have been willing to share and challenge perspectives through my blog and on social media. I put myself out there to do presentations and workshops for schools and communities in efforts to push forward a shift in perspective when it comes to child, youth and family mental health. I find opportunities to bring other voices into the dialogue to inform and educate others, for example, coordinating the parent panel for the International Social Work conference. I regularly post guest submissions on my blog, because as I mentioned in my last post, Champions is not about only my story and experiences. I start by creating the space, but the real sharing opportunities are reserved for others who have found or are just finding their courage to speak up. Because these are the voices we need to hear. Not just mine. Why?
In the series “On Loss and Re-Discovery”, I wrote about what it meant when I started sharing my story with others.
An interesting thing happened to me while I was on the panel. I was certainly nervous at the start, my hands and voice shaking. But as I began speaking my truth and sharing small pieces of our story, my voice became clearer. Stronger. My words were being embraced by the audience, applauded even. After so many years of feeling like I was not heard at all, suddenly people were listening. Actually listening. I am not going to lie. This felt good. My message, my knowledge, it was finally being heard. I was shedding the label I had attached to myself. Realizing I may in fact, have value.
This. So much this.
As parents, we have been put in tenuous, voiceless situations so often that we forget that perhaps our voice, our experiences have value. We may have tried to speak up in the past and been chastised or dismissed. We lose confidence in ourselves. I want to encourage others to share their voice because I want them to know and see that they matter.
Every voice matters.
Because when you discover you matter, you walk a bit taller. Your voice and message become clearer. You start believing in yourself. You start understanding that when there is a setback, it is not necessarily a disaster, rather an opportunity for reflection, growth and courage. You start to look at life differently, noticing things you did not see before. You become curious. You become stronger.
This is what I want others to feel and experience. This is why I do what I do.
Of course, when you start opening up and sharing your ideas and experiences, inevitably someone is going to come along and try to dismiss or discredit you. It is not that I expect everyone will agree with what I have to say or what I am doing, but I do expect respectful and factual dialogue.
I recently had one of these experiences. It left me feeling a great many things. Anger, ferocity, confusion, hurt, sadness and so much more. So I started doing what I typically do in these sorts of situations. I started reflecting and thinking about the bigger picture. And I wondered who decides whose voices matter? And what does it mean when someone tries to stifle or silence your voice?
It almost worked, you know. I considered stopping writing altogether. I considered taking down the page and just leaving the advocacy work to other organizations that could do it better.
And then I woke up. I realized I don’t want anyone speaking for me but myself. And I feel even more passionate that I want others to have the opportunity to speak for themselves too. If I shut down, if I stopped writing and sharing and encouraging, I would silence their voices too. And that my friends, would be a shame. I will say it again…
Every voice matters.
I’m in this for the long haul. I will continue writing and reflecting. If you do not share the vision I have that Champions for Community Mental Wellness is a place where every voice matters, perhaps you will want to find other blogs to read, other causes to support.
If my vision resonates with you, I invite you to share your knowledge, your wisdom and your story when you are ready. There will always be space for your voices on this blog and we will change perspectives about child, youth and family mental wellness with a tsunami of voices that say
“We matter. Our stories matter. And we won’t be silenced.”