Thursday, April 2, 2009

Behind Closed Doors

Recently, I read the results of a random survey of area parents surrounding the idea of mental health treatment for children. The group surveyed largely feels very emotional about the idea of admitting a child to a mental health hospital. Some of the ideas about these hospitals are they are dark, locked, isolated and abusive places where kids are tied down. Families never get to see their kids if they go here. The kids are never taken outside. They never get to play. They don't get to see other kids in their family. It sounds pretty frightening, even for an adult. To think of taking your 6 year old to a place like this is usually more than a parent can deal with. The child will feel like they have been abandoned by their parent. They will be angry at the parent for doing that. Children do not react well to being in any type of hospital for any reason. They are scary places and medical hospitals usually come with built in procedures that cause real physical pain to the children they treat. But parents still take them there because they know they need to be cared for. They know that if the issue isn't treated early, it can become a much worse thing and maybe even end their child's life. Mental health issues are no different. If left alone, some mental health issues will not get better, they will only get worse until either the child commits suicide or ends their life in other ways. With a mental health hospital for children, there are very few things that will cause the child pain outside of a blood draw. The children are allowed to play outside, swim, go to school, watch TV, play games, hunt Easter Eggs, get a visit from Santa Claus, and maybe even a San Antonio SPUR. Parents visit at least twice a day and have meals with their children. They see their brothers and sisters. They have the chance to learn how to swim, how to play different games and how to talk to each other. They also learn they are not alone. They learn other kids have stuff going on in their lives too. They find out it is ok to be sad and it's ok to be angry. They learn it is ok to ask for help when you need it and it is never ok to hurt somebody with words or actions because they are different than you. For anyone who is resisting a therapist or doctor's suggestion to consider a mental health hospital for a child, please take the time to go visit one. If anyone reading this would like to see what happens at Southwest Mental Health Center, I would be happy to take you on a tour. I know the decision to leave a child at any hospital is a very hard one. I certainly want anyone who may be considering this to have the opportunity to come see what one really looks like and maybe even talk to some of our staff. Of course, I have to protect the identity of our kids here, but everything else is on the table. Don't let fear keep you from getting help for your child.

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