Mar 17, 2013

Choice Words For Mental Health Stigmas

I'm sitting here in the emergency room with a youth.  We're here for a mental health evaluation.  Before you start  worrying about HIPPA, please take notice that I'm being delibrately vague to de-identify their health information. I'm not here to talk about the youth--I'm here to talk about mental health and how hard it is to get it for a kid, even seriously disturbed.  This is one of probably eight hospitals I've been at with youth for a mental health evaluation (due to suicidal or homocidal ideation or attempt).  We've been at this particular hospital a little over 24 hours.  We've seen 2 doctors, 3 social workers, at least 10 nurses.   They're looking for a bed at a facility for this youth. You see, this youth still feels the same as they did yesterday, still very serious about the threats they're making and like most kids, we have very little in the way of facilities that can help.  Some facilities take kids 12 and older, some facilities are full of kids with 'behavioral problems', some facilities don't take kids with an IQ 70 or lower.  We live in a small area, and our options are limited.  Right now, we're awaiting a possible bed more than 2 hours away.  Happy Saint Patricks Day right?

I have a pretty good handle on mental health.  As adults, few people want to discuss a possible diagnosis because of the stigma attached. As a child, no psychiatrist wants to give a child a diagnosis that will follow them into adulthood--you guessed it, stigma attached.  Why must this be the case? Why after all the progress, therapy, and medications is mental illness bundled into one GIANT scary term, instead of broken down into the tiny fragments that are scattered throughout all of us?  Anxiety disorders, bipolar, ADHD, ODD... Why is this so frightening that we can't begin to admit it to ourselves, to work as a society to help?  

Sometimes I think people are right, maybe this job will ruin my sensitivity-- maybe it will disconnect me from emotions.  But then I spend a day like today, sitting next to a child who is terrified, who can't understand, and whose only comfort at the moment is holding my hand--someone he barely knows.The bottom line is the mental illness is prevalent.  And how we handle it can be so disappointing to me. 

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