Parents of Children with Serious Mental Illness

Shrink Rap has a thought-provoking guest post--Stigma, Advocacy, and Having a Really Rough Time of It: From Guest Blogger Retriever--that speaks to the problems parents experience when their child has a serious mental illness.

In it, the mother of a child with autism and bipolar disorder movingly describes the parent-blaming, isolation, access to care, and insurance coverage issues that come with the territory. The stigma of mental illness prevents her from publicly advocating on behalf of her child and others like him. Anonymous posts like hers provide an avenue for educating others about parents' struggles to secure adequate treatment for a mentally ill child.

The public mental health system strives to provide a "continuum of care" for children with serious mental illness. In reality, there is a significant gap between short-term inpatient stabilization and once-a-week outpatient treatment as usual. Parents are frequently left to fill the gap themselves due to a lack of community resources.

It's no wonder that some emotionally and financially exhausted parents give up their children to the foster-care system. Tragically, they are forced to "abandon" their child and be charged with neglect so that their child can receive the wrap-around services he or she needs (and deserves).

There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

Spring Break Tips for Students

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has issued a list of sexual assault prevention tips for college students headed off to spring break. The list is also good for high-school students during spring break, senior trips and beach week (or the local equivalent for the land-locked).

For details and how-to's, see the full article at RAINN's 2009 Spring Break Tips for Students.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe in any situation, go with your gut.
  • Even though you're on vacation don't let your guard down completely.
  • Form a buddy system.
  • Avoid being alone or isolated with someone you don't know and trust.
  • Practice safe drinking.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Secure your room or property.
  • Make a plan.
  • Be prepared.
  • Report suspicious behavior.
RAINN is a great resource for sexual assault victims, family and friends, and helping professionals. They run an old-fashioned telephone National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE and an On-line Hotline for the tech-inclined.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This year's theme is "Prevent Sexual Violence...in our workplaces" with the slogan "Respect Works!" See the SAAM website for more information, campaign resources, and SAAM Day of Action events on April 8, 2009.

What you can do: Attend a "Take Back the Night" event (often sponsored by
colleges and universities). Wear a teal ribbon to show your support for survivors. Donate to or volunteer for your local rape crisis center.

Why a Blog?

So, here I am, after months of encouragement from blogging friends, venturing out into the brave new world (to me anyway) of blogging. Much of my delay was due to subject matter, what do I have to offer, etc. It finally dawned on me that my professional knowledge, expertise, what-have-you might be of use to someone. I've also been inspired by posts such as Being a Blogger at Dr. Rob's Musings of a Distractible Mind.

After a somewhat extensive search (an oxymoron of sorts), I found many medical blogs, a handful of mental health blogs (by professionals, patients, and others) but little available on child psychology. Of course, given my limited knowledge of how to find all the relevant blogs, there could be quite a few I've overlooked. Please let me know if you are out there or know of any.

I hope to use this blog to provide practical information based on scientific and clinical evidence on child psychology, mental health, and related issues that will be useful to the 80% of computer users who search for health information on the web. Many parents who consult me can't find enough information about their children's problems, or they find conflicting and often suspect information about the latest wonder drug/new age technique/diet supplement solution which even they don't believe. Though I guess those who believe it wouldn't call me anyway.

You've probably noticed my tendency to qualify statements. You should know that this is an occupational hazard for psychologists as we were well trained in never making a definite statement about anything (as evidenced by reading any article in any psychology journal). All the more reason I am skeptical about those who market this year's therapy fad as a miracle cure for any and everything.

Among other topics, I will be writing about child abuse and other trauma. I spent 16 years working in a small non-profit agency that treats victims of child abuse and sexual assault where I learned more than most anyone would want to know. But I also learned how effective treatment for trauma makes a huge difference, and I had the privilege of assisting many child and adolescent victims achieve recovery from their experiences. I hope to pass on some of the knowledge I gained as well as raise awareness about the prevalence and effects of childhood trauma.

I'd love to hear from readers about what they found helpful here and any other resources I should look into to. You can also ask a general question using the sidebar contact me link (but please, no specific personal questions--I can't give individual advice).