Saturday, February 18, 2012

What Do We Need to Do?

1212mentalhealth-RW1212mentalhealth-RW (Photo credit: Robbie Wroblewski)
Just today there was a news report about a mom being arrested because her 12 year old daughter was found naked digging through garbage cans in a city in California. And people wonder if mental illness is real or if it is just a matter of will power. Just snap out of it, get over it all those wise suggestions. A Guy fitted himself with what he thought was an explosive vest and attempted to blow himself up in the capitol building, just having  a hissy fit was he? And how about those kids who lose their mom or dad over seas in the latest combat situation, are they supposed to just get over that too?  My point here is what do we need to do to get the world to understand what mental health is and how it needs to be evaluated and adjusted just like our cardiovascular health needs to be checked and managed if necessary. What do we have to do to get parents to come listen to the truth about mental health and kids, what may be giving them some difficulty that might be the key that unlocks years of school free from anxiety, fear and crushed self esteem? I address parents groups locally at elementary schools at the Parent Coffee's. There are maybe 7 parents there, usually single parents, mostly female. They all are very respectful of my time and the information I give them, always making sure I am being understood and am open to questions... which usually gets me feedback of crickets. The teachers are involved in the activity. After the event is over, there are at least 5 of those parents who come talk to me in hushed tones abut their kiddo. Could he be bipolar? He could be anything, but first he is a little boy, your little boy. Kids have issues. Anxiety, depression, even hallucinations. Depression and anxiety untreated can result in hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis. Finding out that therapy once a week for a few months could have warded off the child's psychotic break at 16 years old, or could have stopped the suicide of a 10 year old is sad compensation for these parents. Most of them can see the signs after the fact, but those same signs were there before. Parents need to first know their kids and what their lives are like. They should be able to pick up on anything that is out of the ordinary in behavior, routine, friends appetite etc . Parents should take their children to the appropriate doctor if the phenomenon persists for a week or so. It should be ok to take a child to a therapy appointment or a psychiatric appointment. We don't sneak people in to see their cancer doctor, or their heart doctor or their gynecologist. Are kids afraid of  having mental illness? You bet they are and they learned to be afraid from us. Just the same way we have made dentist's and hospitals fun and less scary for kids, we need to do the same for mental health and families. When we take away the fear, the stigma, we clear the way for hope and healing
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