Youth Mental Health Advocate Takes Over Insta Stories

This week for #freeyourmindfriday, Maria Barrios, the warrior behind @kidscopingwithanxiety, took over our Insta stories to talk about parenting kids with mental illness and stopping the stigma. Check out her bio below!

My name is Maria Barrios, I am a mom of 2 kids (11-year-old boy and 8-year-old girl). I decided to create @kidscopingwithanxiety because I believe that the more that we talk and normalize the conversation about mental health, the more we help to end the stigma that surrounds it.

When I was 25 years old I was officially diagnosed with generalized anxiety. I said officially because even though I worried a lot when I was younger, I didn’t want to share my feelings with my parents or anybody. 15 years ago no one was talking about mental health, I thought that I was the only one that had all those feelings and worries, so I decided to remain in silence, I felt alone.

When I decided to look for help, going to a therapist was definitely the best decision ever!!!

During that time I remembered asking the therapist when will the fears and anxious thoughts would go away. Would they disappear at all? Her answer was so clear and honest. She said, “they will come back anytime, you just have to learn how to live with it because it’s part of you and this is what makes you who you are.” So after that, I realized that anxiety is as treatable as any physical health disorder or illness. Nowadays, I am a highly functioning person living with anxiety, and that’s ok because it makes me stronger.

Our journey as a family took us to discover that anxiety is partially genetic, and I noticed that one of my kids tends to worry more than normal like me. Even though nowadays it’s still not easy to talk about mental health, I decided that I won’t wait until my child is 25 years old to look for the help, the tools, the resources, and all the education to prepare our family to cope with anxiety so we can thrive rather than survive.

Now, I am a child mental health advocate in my community. I go to elementary schools to talk about early signs of mental health disorders in kids. I am also a Family Advisory Board Member at Seattle Children’s Hospital. I am on a mission. I am raising awareness about anxiety in young kids and their families because I truly believe in early intervention and that anxiety is treatable. When you find the right help early enough, the outcome is better and makes a huge impact in your kid’s life. It’s important to understand that this is a chronic illness like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. Children need to understand that there is hope and they are not alone.