Friday, January 18, 2013

What's the future of children's mental health?

As the dabate continues about gun control after the Newtown tragedy, mental health is interwoven in all the discussions... As it should be! But of course, everyone has a different idea of what that mental health discussion should be, and who knows what actual interventions will be implemented and followed through to longterm sustainability. Knowing that President Obama would be addressing gun control and mental health, my colleagues and I have been anticipating just how this is all going to take place and how receptive that our nation will be -- which is a conversation we were already having about our own small community we continue to serve.

I became very excited about the possibilities for change in our nation when Sandra Spencer, Executive Director of the National Federation of Families, informed us that she had been invited to join the conversation at the White House regarding the recommendations that Vice President Biden would be providing President Obama about gun control initiatives. Upon leaving the meeting, she prepared a video to inform Federation members about her role in the meeting and what she hoped would be a huge step in a positive direction to help America understand the position of families and caregivers already addressing mental health challenges -- and in effect why the feelings they have are the same as caregivers that are not seeking treatment for fear of social ridicule and judgment. See the video below to hear her address to Federation members.

As I listened to Sandra's words, I was inspired by how well she captured the depth of what America needs to know in order to understand the importance of children's mental health diagnosis and treatment along with unstigmatized support from a family's community at large. When I talked to Sandra individually to applaud her job well done and to express how moving I felt her address to the Federation members was, she shared additional information about being asked back to the White House to continue the conversation after the President's Press Conference on Wednesday, January 16th. She expressed her excitement as to being able to give more information for prompting action to celebrate the upcoming children's mental health awareness day and promoting the identification of the green ribbon in support!
One of the most infuriating and sad things about our world today is that it takes a tragedy like Sandy Hook in order to call attention to something that should have been addressed a long time ago anyway! But as I look at the details surrounding this event, a close friend of mine brought to my attention that the school colors of Sandy Hook just happened to be green and white. A call of rememberance was made for everyone to wear green in honor of those lost on the Monday following the shooting. For me, I believe this adds a whole new level of possible response for the green ribbon in support of children's mental health. I feel that the tragedy at Newtown has given all dedicated green ribbon advocates an additional push of motivation to share the message of awareness this May.
In the official statement released from the White House after the Presiden't Press Conference on Wednesday morning (see the document by clicking here) President Obama says, "We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun." I definitely second that!  What remains to be seen however, is whether or not America will follow suit and agree about the protection of our children and that it includes both gun control and mental health awareness and services for all.
 I'm hoping for the best possible future for children's mental health and that public awareness and acceptance changes dramatically over the next year. I'll say it over and over again in the months to come...I'm a green ribbon advocate for many, many reasons. How about you?

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