Tag Archive: empowering families

  1. Empowering Families

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    A version of this blog post, written by Campaign Coordinator Margaret Nimmo Crowe, initially appeared on the Behavioral Health Matters blog.

    As coordinator of the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health at Voices for Virginia’s Children, I regularly talk to parents who are struggling to help their children with mental health issues. They are often extremely frustrated because they cannot find the treatment that their child needs in their community, or there is a long wait list for services, or their insurance won’t pay for the type of treatment their child needs.

    Compounding these frustrations, many parents with whom I talk feel isolated. They don’t know other families struggling with children’s mental health disorders. They may not be receiving support from friends or their child’s school. Their families’ lives have been thrown into disarray – emotionally, logistically, and financially – as they try to find help for the child who needs it while continuing to work and take care of other children.

    One question I often hear is, “Why it is so difficult to get help when your child has a mental health problem as opposed to a physical health problem?” The answer is complex, and the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health is working to improve access to services through a variety of strategies.

    The key to improving access to children’s mental health services – through every strategy we are using – is mobilizing the families who have experience with this issue. And there are more of you than you might think. Did you know that 1 in 5 children experience a mental health disorder? Chances are you DO know other families who have a child with ADHD, depression, anxiety, or another mental health challenge, but because of the stigma that still exists, you and they have never made the connection.

    Part of what we do at the Campaign is help families realize the difference they can make by speaking out, and we equip them to do so. For example:

    • Telling your stories can reduce the stigma of mental illness; together, we can help reduce the isolation so many families and children feel, and make it okay to ask for help.

    • Walking advocates through the barriers your family has encountered as you’ve tried to seek help enables us to identify the policies that need to be changed or the types of services that need to be created.

    • Sharing your experience with legislators can help them realize the real-life implications of the funding decisions they make.

    One parent we’ve worked with at the Campaign is Shannon Haworth. After talking to lawmakers in Washington, DC, she was asked in a radio interview last summer what it feels like to advocate. She replied, “You feel like you’re just a parent in a sea of other parents who need help, and so when you’re able to talk to people and tell your specific story and have people listen, it empowers you.”

    Please join the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health so that all families who struggle with the children’s mental health system can be similarly empowered.