We’ve been listening to stories from parents about the process of discovering and treating their child’s mental illness. It’s inspiring to hear and see how so many parents are able to progress from feeling lost and overwhelmed to finding services and solutions for their kids, but the journey is never easy. When we asked what could have made that process better, here are some things we heard:
Single Point of Entry – Once parents know they need to get some help, they have no idea where to turn. Many report having made multiple phone calls with many dead ends. They are also surprised by how many applications and assessments they have to complete before their child can start getting help. Parents say they wish there were one phone number to call and also some sort of guide to help them understand eligibility and other rules.
School Based Mental Health – Symptoms of mental illness often show up in the school setting where our kids spend a lot of their day. Having a licensed, trained clinician on site at a school can make a big difference in the diagnosis and ongoing treatment of kids. Parents don’t have to take time off work or take their kids out of school in order to drive to a therapy session. Kids whose parents don’t have cars have much better access to services. Moreover, these “in-house” clinicians can play a vital role in educating teachers and staff about techniques that work for each individual.
Hospital Services – When their child is in crisis, parents wish they could find appropriate emergency help that is close to home. Due to the scarcity of hospital beds for mental health emergencies, children and youth can be sent to facilities that are hours away from home. Sometimes, young children can be sent to teen wards or teens to adult wards. Moreover, there are often no facilities for families to stay nearby.
Stigma and Judgment – Parents often wish that they had learned more and acted sooner to get help for their child. They wish that others had spoken out to encourage them to seek help, and not tried to “make them feel better” by minimizing their child’s symptoms. When they did seek help, parents wish that professionals would not immediately assume that they are bad parents or they are at fault. They wish to be listened to respectfully.