I have just finished reading three newspaper articles about mental health. One was a general article about how four people have dealt with their own mental health issues and how they are each living a good life alongside of their mental health challenges. The second one was about mental health services for kids, especially online services (which are becoming ever more popular). The third one was about making mental health check-ups a part of the medical protocol for kids and teens. These articles appeared in the same newspaper on the same day. I was really jazzed because the reason I started writing this blog was to encourage more conversation surrounding mental health, and to bring that conversation out into the open. I am finding that the conversations about mental health are finding their way to the forefront of our society and no longer confined to the closet. They are not quite as common as talking about one’s favorite movie, but they are certainly increasing in number.
All three of the articles were stimulating, but the one that interested me the most was the one about mental health becoming part of routine medical protocol for kids and teens. It begins by discussing the need to have safe spaces for kids to go to when they are in need of supportive adult guidance if they are having emotional trouble. It is so important to make those spaces easily accessible and staffed by people who are open-minded, non-judgmental, and caring. The article continues by describing the urgency for better care for acute cases, some examples being the need for more mobile units that can go out into communities to help, more available beds for serious cases, and increasing the length of hospital stays for better and more permanent healing (this last point, in my opinion, is particularly important).
But the point in the article that impacted me the most, and I hope will be the impetus for change with our comfort level with seeking mental health care, is the discourse about combining mental health care and physical health care. It is exciting to me that there is a possibility that we can create a culture in which mental and physical well-being are both part of standard pediatric care. The goal of this concept is to have an environment in which a parent and child automatically expect the pediatrician to be checking to see how the child is doing physically, mentally, and emotionally during his/her routine yearly check-up. A yearly check-up will be a time for vaccinations, lung, heart, belly, ear, and reflex checks, and a time to check-in to see how the child is doing emotionally and mentally. Imagine how incredible it will be when our society becomes so used to the idea of mental health and physical health being a unit that no one thinks twice about mental health questions becoming routine protocol. And if an emotional problem crops up, no one will question whether to get help. Getting help for mental challenges can become as normal as getting a broken arm set, or taking medicine for diabetes, or medicine for an earache. AMEN!