Educating communities on child & adolescent mental health.
Check out this awesome video from Sarah, a dancer from Connecticut that used her dancing skills to promote mental health awareness and featured little minds! Way to go Sarah!
Hi, my name is Julia Morneau, and I am happy you are here! I am currently a senior in college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying psychology with a minor in medical anthropology and chemistry. Prior to college, I attended Wilton Public Schools in Wilton, Connecticut from grades K-11 and Marvin Ridge High School in Marvin, North Carolina for 12th grade.
Little Minds is a foundation I created to raise awareness of childhood mental illnesses as well as to erase the stigma of them in the community. The goal of my foundation is to educate others on mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, and more, and the impact they have on children and adolescents. I hope that Little Minds will help individuals understand the need for mental illness education, as around 20% of the youth population has a diagnosable mental illness, but only 5% are diagnosed. Moreover, I aim use the knowledge I have gained through my personal experiences and research on mental illnesses to inform the community on the importance of mental health, as well as letting kids know they are not alone.
I chose to create this foundation because the topic of mental health is very important to me. As a young child, I struggled with anxiety, depression, and ADHD, among other issues. I knew when I was young I was different from others, but I could not properly explain my feelings. Even though I lived a good, healthy life with loving parents, I found at times I was unhappy. Fortunately, my parents along with the help of my teachers, school, doctors, and therapists, addressed my struggles at an early age and I am now a thriving 21 year old. However, there were times it was not easy, and it still isn't easy. I remember vividly being excluded from events such as birthday parties or games on the playground. I did not know at the time why these things were happening and they only further exacerbated my anxiety and depression. Through the multiple channels of help I received, I learned to deal with my anxiety, depression, and ADHD, and I use the strategies I was taught at a young age in my life daily. Throughout every one of my experiences, I realize the value of treating and diagnosing mental health issues at an early age, and the longer they go undiagnosed the harder they can be to treat. I know if it were not for the help I received when I was young I most likely would be in a much different place in my life.
Education is one of the main goals of my foundation, and this is very important to me as someone involved in the mental health field. I often find myself needing to stand up for others or explain to people why someone may be acting a certain way, and I aim to eliminate the harmful idea that the person is to blame for the struggles they face with mental illness. I want to help others learn about mental health disorders so they can realize a lot of time the actions of a child with mental health issues are out of their control. For example, children with ADHD can be labeled a “problem” child because they have difficulty focusing, sitting still, and attending to things (such as school work, activities, and more). However, promoting a more interactive learning environment can benefit these students, and I've found that kids with ADHD can be some of the most passionate, creative, and successful individuals when placed in the right setting. Thus, what I want people to learn and understand is that children with mental health disorders are not acting a certain way because they want to, but because it is out of their control. Although I have experienced many moments that highlight the lack of education regarding mental illnesses in the community, I can recall a conversation I overheard among two adults recently and it has stuck with me for some time. One adult was saying to the other that someone they know was hospitalized for depression and she was on suicide watch. The response of the other adult was “I don’t understand, why would she be depressed? She has everything anyone could hope for...a loving family, money, a big house, etc…What is there to be depressed about?” In my opinion, this showed me where the problem lies. Many people do not understand that depression is an illness, an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain, and it does not matter how much or how little you have, if you suffer from it then none of that will stop you from being depressed. I hope I can help people, such as these adults I overheard, so they realize mental health disorders are diseases and not something someone chooses to have.
Growing up these days is hard enough as is and to live with a mental illness only makes it harder. By getting young children the help they need, they learn how to live with the challenges they face- and embrace themselves for who they are. Unfortunately, many kids feel bullied, excluded, and lack confidence because they may act differently than their peers. As a young adult now, I can see how important having confidence, friends, and success in school has been to help me through my difficulties, and I would not have had these things if it weren’t for the help I received from so many along the way. My experiences have taught me that my mental illnesses don't define me, but they are a part of who I am and that's not something to be ashamed of. With Little Minds, I hope that I can aid in erasing the stigma attached to mental illnesses, and help others realize that there is nothing wrong with thinking differently. If Little Minds can prevent one child from being excluded, one person to realize a kid is struggling, or bring hope to one person, then my foundation has been successful in my eyes.
Below is a meaningful poem that I think sends a strong message about my goals and why I feel my experiences with mental health have shaped who I am.
Thank you for being here, for reading my story, and for reaching into your heart to help a child in need.
"The Lotus Flower"
You can either
keep yourself up at night
you can hide under your covers
and tell everyone
or you can see all this
as an opportunity
to emerge from the concealed depths
to the gleaming luminescence
and become stronger
it is your choice to decide
whether to drown in your troubles
or to courageously survive
because the harder the struggle
the more spirited you become in the end
"the deeper the mud
the more beautiful the lotus blooms"
-- Madisen Kuhn