Tag Archives: accessing health care

Am I working with a licensed Mental Health Professional (MHP)?

It’s a simple enough question, but there are many types of therapists and counselors out there, so it’s a good idea to check the credentials of the therapist who is working with your child or family.  Here is a list of most credentials that are used in Minnesota:

  • LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • LICSW – Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
  • LPCC – Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
  • LP – Licensed Psychologist
  • MD – Psychiatrist

Don’t be afraid to ask.  It’s your right, and in your child’s best interest.

What Parents Wish For

ImageWe’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.

Normal or Not Normal? Part 3

When should parents of young children seek help?

Red FlagsImage

Early identification of mental health problems in young children is extremely challenging.  There are many resources to help parents learn “red flags” for autism, but other forms of mental disorders are even less clear cut.  Sometimes a parent’s gut instinct is the most powerful “red flag” of all.

When my son with ASD was young, he would throw violent tantrums if his schedule was different, if I took a different route home from his preschool, if he was in too noisy a place, or even if the phone rang or someone flushed the toilet with the lid down.  He would throw the phone across the room, hit his sister or me, and once knocked down rows of boxes in a shoe store.

Given that this happened on a regular basis, I found it really insufferable when other people would say to me, “Oh, every child throws tantrums.” I had an older child and, yes, she had had her moments, but there was absolutely no comparison between the two.

I knew that I was not doing anything to drive the tantrums, like giving in, hitting my child or losing my temper.  Despite my exhaustion and embarrassment, it was EXTREMELY important that I kept my calm.  Otherwise, I just made things worse.  I also used a non-threatening way of restraining him with my arms and legs, so that he was safe and did not hurt himself or others.

If you have provided the right environment and know that your child is getting food, sleep, love, attention, physical activity, and appropriate play experiences, but he or she is still unhappy, disconnected from caregivers, aggressive and/or self-destructive, then you should ask for help.

Talking to Medical Professionals: Describing Behaviors

If you really feel that something is “not right” with your child, please don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s pediatrician or, in Hennepin County, call Help Me Grow at 612-348-TOTS (8687).

When talking to medical professionals, though, it’s best to be as precise as possible.  You could keep a Multiple_Behavior_Chart for one week to show the doctor how often child throws tantrums or hurts himself.  If your infant or toddler cries a lot, time how long the crying lasts.  If you report to the doctor that your one-year-old cries every night for 4 hours, that would have more impact than saying, “My kid is driving me crazy with all his crying.”

NORMAL FOR TODDLERS

NOT NORMAL FOR TODDLERS

Occasional tantrums – Daily tantrums that can last several hours;
– Violent or self-destructive behavior, such as head banging;
– Aggressive behavior toward others
Meeting developmental milestones at slightly different rates – Delays of at least 6 months in walking, talking or social behavior;
– Dramatic loss of skills (speaking, etc.) after a period of  normal development
Meltdowns when tired or hungry – Inability to be soothed or comforted;
– Overreacts to minor changes in routine, noise, light, etc.;
Video

Mental Health for All by Involving All

I can’t believe I missed this one last year. Vikram Patel offers a very inspiring message in his TED Talk about addressing gaps in care for those with mental illness. It’s 12 minutes worth watching.