Note: My vision of this blog is to be a resource for ways to give children positive messages to raise a emotionally healthy child. Once 2016 begins, I intend to make my own 153Promise to make 153 blog entries on ways to “kiss” your child so they wind up with “On Million Kisses” by the time they turn 18. Until then, I’m throwing out a bunch of content that’s been on my mind for quite some time. This is one of those posts…
Every parent knows the “joys” of the yearly physical checkup at the pediatrician. It’s usually scheduled at a sick visit when you child needs antibiotics for that horrible cough or ear ache. The very nice physicians’ assistant (PA) helpfully suggests, “Would you like to schedule your yearly well visit at this time?” This is usually in February and the calendar is booked well into July. Still, you pick a random date towards the end of the summer and pray you don’t forget it. Thankfully, the offices sends you a reminder call 48 hours in advance so you can cancel the plans you made in the meantime.
Your child gets weighed and measured. Poked and prodded. Not unlike picking the perfect melon for a picnic. 98.6? Check. Still ten fingers and toes? Check. Pooping? Check.
All of this is important, just to make sure everything’s looking normal. We trust the doctor to pick up anything unusual, and the doctor trusts us to divulge any concerns we may have. It’s a system that’s been in place for ages.
Why not for mental health?
You may say that primary care physicians (PCPs) are trained for such screenings, but their training is limited. Kind of like a plumber fixing your leaky sink and noting that the wiring may — or may not — be grounded right in your kitchen outlets. You need to call an electrician to get a more educated opinion.
My wish is that EVERY child in the U. S. gets a yearly screening for any issues dealing with mental health. It should be done by a highly trained, highly astute therapist who knows how to spot the markers for things like anxiety, depression, mood disorders… There should be a very detailed pre-visit form to fill out. Depending upon the age of the child, they should be part of that process, similar to the courts considering the child’s opinion in custody hearings.
A questionnaire with the Strongly Agree; Agree; Neutral; Disagree; Strongly Disagree should be filled out by both the caregiver and the child. Part of HIPA, there should be parts of the form that can be voluntarily filled out by a PA without the parent present if the child needs help with the form and the parent gives consent in order to ensure that the child is forthcoming with the answers.
- I am happy at school
- I feel supported at home
- I feel in control of my life
- I go to sleep without fear
- I make healthy choices about my body
- My friendships add to my enjoyment of life
- There is an adult I trust if I have problems
- I do not feel like I am in danger in any way
Or for the more concerning:
- My life feels out of control sometimes
- I have thoughts of not wanting to be here anymore
- There are some fears I can’t get out of my head
- I fear some people in my life
- I don’t enjoy activities I used to like
- People don’t notice my problems
Even very young children could point to emojis or pick pictures to color to get an idea of how they view the world and their place in it.
I firmly believe that if we as a nation start focusing our attention on these types of issues at a very early age, we could see a huge turn around in how we treat children with regarding mental health issues.
If a child’s responses start showing a cause for concern, early interventions can be done. Things as simple as recommending a support group for both the parents and child… Recommending certain books or resources for the family… even a few intensive sessions with a therapist to teach coping mechanisms… for the entire family.
Will this cost money upfront? Perhaps. But imagine how much money would be saved by having a whole generation of more well adjusted people walking around. Imagine crime rates going down. Addiction being reduced. Fewer suicides or mass shootings.
The real tragedy that occurs in horrible media events is when people are interviewed and say, “Yeah… there were some red flags.”
It’s my hope that 153Promise takes off and becomes a platform for sweeping mental health reform for children.
That’s my mission. Some may think I’m crazy, and I need to get my head examined.