Reflection of a Children’s Mental Health Clinician - On Accessibility and Stigma

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Children's pain is real

Before I began the MSSW program I'm in, I was an elementary school teacher. In those several years I taught, I encountered three seven year olds who confided in me that they wanted to end their lives. The first time, just like you, I was stunned and I was heartbroken. This scenario wasn't addressed in my teacher preparation program. I was able to calmly respond to these childrens' pain with empathy and compassion, as I awaited the arrival of our school social worker. Thank goodness for school social workers! They, along with teachers, are often the first ones to identify a mental health need that isn't being met and advocate for children to receive services. Two of my students were able to receive the help they needed. One did not, because of her parents' denial and suspected lay their own mental health issues. I still wonder about her today.

I completely agree with your assessment of the stigma associated with mental illness and the challenges to accessing care. The same is the case in the U.S., particularly for families of color in lower-income communities like the one I taught in. In addition to the stigma surrounding mental illness, there is a misconception that children don't have problems, or that they have no reason to suffer from depression or anxiety. Many adults still believe childhood is a carefree period in life, and that children should be seen and not heard. As you mentioned, that's not at all the case. In addition to better access to services, My hope is that more families are educated about the existence and significance of childhood mental illness. Thank you for sharing your reflections and for advocating for our most vulnerable.

Nicole W more than 6 years ago

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