Last Thursday evening, the Children’s Mental Health Campaign held its 15th regional forum in Somerville. The event, cosponsored by the City of Somerville, drew over 40 individuals from Somerville and the surrounding communities.
As always, the most powerful and heart-wrenching stories were those from parents. Three mothers spoke of their challenges, and in some cases success, in trying to get necessary mental health services for their children. Early Identification, communication between the schools and different agencies, coordination of care, lack of providers and effective/appropriate treatment are just some of the recurring themes we heard from the parents. More than any other advocacy effort, their accounts bring home the desperate need for reform of the children’s mental health system. What we also appreciate in these settings is the connections made between parents and families battling the same challenges, parents and clinicians in the area as well as parents and school counselors or child social workers.
The Somerville forum was unique in that it was heavily attended by young people from the city. A number of individuals in their teens and early twenties came, shared their stories, and asked for advice in getting help for themselves, family members, and for friends. For an illness that is so tied up in issues of stigma, having young people come and openly talk about the challenges that they and those around them face in dealing with mental health needs is encouraging. Only when we are able to discuss mental health in the same way that we talk about other health needs will real change be made. To borrow a phrase from HCFA’s oral health team, the brain is part of the body.
The time is NOW to end the stigma attached to mental illness.
For more information about the Children’s Mental Health Campaign and details on getting the Campaign to come to your area, please visit www.childrensmentalhealthcampaign.org.