This is about our children—so often overlooked or underfunded in healthcare budgets, a bright and hopeful moment that deserves notice. It also serves to remind us of how much work remains. In our nation there are 75 million children and teens. Every year, one out of every five children requires professional psychiatric attention.
On May 5th, “The Heroes of Hope” (clinicians, educators, parents, youth law reinforcement officials) united in Washington DC to turn up the volume on the national dialogue about children’s mental health. The event was webcast live as a special edition of Knowledge Network for Systems of Care TV (KSOC-TV). All panels were moderated by NBCY Washington Morning News Anchor, Aaron Gilchrist.
Children and youth between ages of 2 and 17 who meet the criteria for serious emotional disturbance (SED) receive in federally funded systems of care services through 29 systems. With now 4,584 children and youth stand to benefit. “I have a troubled youth, where do I go for help?” “I must be a bad mom. My 6- year old was expelled from school.” “I am about to lose my job. My family does] not help. Who can?” The family panel can answer many of these questions. “When I lost my mother, my world stopped. I did not know what to do. My school counselor knew.” How can you partner with schools when your child is labeled as difficult? The “how to find help and hope in schools” panel can share its wealth of knowledge.
Schools are complex systems as it is. The old way of thinking of a person according to a given label is now shifting to learning his or her story and ultimately building trust and partnership. Such an approach benefits not only the student but also the entire environment. Better emotional health translates to higher academic achievement. “Give voice to the voiceless. Prevent suicide.” Champions of suicide prevention who coach through education (ScreeningforMentalHealth.inc) visit schools to deliver highly needed services. Students become educators and role models for each other. “What to do when a friend is in crisis?” “Use text line: 741741.”
Stigma falls on both sides (the troubled youth and the police officers) when it comes to law reinforcement. Try to see a hero in the police officer, a friendly face. Crisis intervention teams (CIT) are growing among police officers. Their interventions are shifting from punitive measures to attempts at rehabilitation and partner with schools and families. Taught to recognize the nature of mental illness, officers are now instructed to “slow down” when interacting with youth. They are trained to rise above prejudice against youth of color who gets in trouble. They are learning to appreciate issues of poverty and inequality that often complicate the life of children of color. They consider mental health to be the primary cause behind the problems suffered by these children.
Listen to the law reinforcement panel to learn more about its role in the mental health system.
The interactive nature of the conference presents many complex issues with the use of a plain language and a clear and easy to follow open-table format, bringing data and hope by emphasizing competency building, solution seeking, and a family/community-centered approach.
The Systems of Care (SOC) model leads from poverty to prosperity, from isolation to inclusion, from despair to help and hope. It changes our minds and hearts.
Check out the webinar “Awareness Day: What’s in It for Your Community?” See:
Get involved. Share your thoughts.
As a physician working primarily with children for more than two decades, I fully understand that children’s health is more than just a medical issue. I feel privileged to be a doctor and, at the same time, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to work towards making a better health care system for this vulnerable part of our population.
There is drastic shortage of child psychiatrists for our nation’s 75 million children and teens. Currently there are only 8,300 child psychiatrists nationwide, some 30,000 short of what is needed. In Massachusetts, waits of four to six weeks for a child psychiatry appointment are common, and several community mental health centers report three month waits.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has worked hard to make the government aware of the crisis of limited access to child psychiatrists. I was inspired by AACAP’s legislative program to get involved in persuading policymakers to address the shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists.
In the spirit of doing my part to address the crisis in access, I have also signed up to volunteer with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics to provide free care to homeless women and chidren in greater Boston area and I have created my website as a place where stakeholders can interact and come together on behalf of our children.
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