Friday, May 31, 2013

The FFCMH Mission is Accomplished by Sharing Personal Experiences

Why do I advocate for the National Federation of Families? Because the commitment of each and every staff member, board member, and even the leadership is completely and absolutely personal. All of these people are there because of the experiences they had as they have fought for their children's mental health needs and the rights of all other children to have their mental health needs met also.

Recently, the Executive Director, Sandra Spencer, and Marie Niahros, a Family Resource Specialist, were invited by the Child Mind Institute to participate in an event for their Speak Up for Kids Campaign in May. Child Mind created an on-line interactive event that featured Sandra and Marie as they told about the Federation and how each of them have worked to navigate the mental health system in order to find the best care for their children. The video is fantastic and it is an example of that real life experience motivating the real work behind the Federation mission. Click the following link to view the event titled: "Bringing Mental Illness out of the Shadows - A Parent's Perspective."

Watching the video clip renews my energy for the job that we have to do in sharing the message of children's mental health awareness. We can't say it loud enough or strong enough... Mental illness does not develop from bad parenting. Parents are not guilty of their child's mental health challenges and should not be ashamed when their child needs treatment. Shame only causes avoidance and denial -- which will never allow children to get the support they need. When I see teens suffering through substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts, I see a medical disorder -- not a family problem, and not a parenting problem. Disorders don't go away if you just try harder not to have them, a diagnosis is not a disability, and treatment does not mean personal weakness.

I'm proud, not ashamed, to say that I belong to this group and use my personal experience to encourage other families. As we each have the courage to tell our story, we empower someone somewhere to do the same. That's how we end the cycle of stigma and mental health disparities. It's a mission of the heart, and obviously the mind too.

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