A while back, my friend, Toni, shared her thoughts about the contrast between the treatment of children with mental illness and those with physical illness. When I read her words, I wept. I was reminded of our time with a child in the inpatient psychiatric unit of a children’s hospital. I count that experience as one of the lowest in my mothering life. Toni originally posted this on Facebook and gave me permission to publish it here.
Today, I have been struck by how disparities affect children. I realize the disparities I see are so small compared to those experienced by many people groups in the world. Yet, I am still heartbroken.
I was driving to a meeting, and a woman on the radio was describing her child’s experience at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Her child came out of surgery, received her favorite foods, and was greeted by a beanie baby wearing a cast matching the exact cast of the radio announcer’s little girl. I can only imagine how cared for this little girl felt. It truly is the experience I would wish for every child.
Yet, when one of my own children was at the same hospital, on a very different floor, in need of mental health care, the hospital didn’t change my child’s clothes for four days. Even though the floor was a locked wing, the hospital managed to lose the only prized stuff animal my child brought.
I remember leaving one day and yet again, seeing Seahawks players coming to visit, and feeling oh, so very grieved, that our visit was one of silent pain, while other children were greeted with gifts of electronics and celebrities.
Likewise, our family has somehow managed to land in a school district that shows up in a prestigious magazine every year for its ability to get kids into notable colleges. People clamor to get their kids into our district. I’ve known families to produce false addresses just so they can eek their kids in—the AP classes, the sports, the prestige, oh my!
Yet, when a child has complex trauma, mental health needs, and isn’t equipped to enroll in those AP classes, the district puts off meetings and forces children to sit out of school for days until staff is available. Teachers aren’t trained to deal with anxiety disorders, and kids suffer as a result.
The same district doesn’t always classify the use of the “n” word as racist.
I want a kid with a broken arm to receive all the love care and attention she deserves. I want kids who are headed for the Ivy Leagues to be supported.
I also want kids who need specialized attention to be just as championed, just as valued, and for their advocates to be viewed as partners, not the enemy.
Toni is married to the wittiest and most handsome man in the world who still takes her breath away almost 20 years after the day they met. Together they have been gifted 7 cherubs that have taught them more than any degree or job ever could. Toni is passionate about magnifying the voices of those the world has quieted and firmly believes no one should ever fight a battle alone. As a humble follower of Emmanuel, God with us, she hopes to link together with the weary arms of others
Friends, if this speaks to you, please share your thoughts. Reading it stirs my heart and may even prompt me to revisit our painful experience enough to write about it.
There is so much shame surrounding mental illness, and yet many families are struggling to meet the needs of their children. These families need our love and support – we need each other.
Leave a comment here, or on my Thankful Moms Facebook page. I would love to hear from you.
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