Since my children were young, we’ve practiced the same Thanksgiving tradition. During the first week of November, we sit down together and make our “Thankful Turkeys.” We trace our hands (my youngest daughter’s are now almost as big as mine!) on recycled brown paper grocery bags, then cut our “feathers” from bright construction paper and write what we are thankful for on our feathers.
For many of us, our spiritual leaders are a natural first place to turn in times of mental health challenges. They know us and our families, they are often a comforting presence, and offer a trusted and wise counselor.
Marriage isn’t easy even under the best of circumstances. A marriage enduring the stress of caring for an ill family member is perhaps one of life’s more difficult challenges. When you have a child experiencing mental illness, it is normal for priorities to shift, and parents’ time and energy to be more focused on that child and doing everything possible to ensure the child gets the help he or she needs. Unfortunately for some couples, this means their marriage can get lost in the shuffle, and the relationship weakens or worse, falls apart.
To recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, One in Five Minds is introducing Pinwheels for Change. The colorful and vibrant pinwheels are no ordinary pinwheels, but the stunning creations of 15 renowned San Antonio artists that were inspired to participate in the campaign. These highly visual reminders represent both the dire situation facing children with mental, emotional or behavioral disorders, as well as the change that can come with proper diagnosis and treatment. Senior Vice President at Clarity Child Guidance Center, Rebecca Helterbrand, said pinwheels were selected as symbols because, “Pinwheels evoke powerful imagery of childhood; of gentle breezes and carefree days. The desire is that these happy images provide hope for the 1 in 5 children that experience mental illness. A hope that can only be achieved by raising awareness about mental illness, ending stigma and improving access to care for all children who need it.”
When a child or teen has a mental disorder, it doesn’t just affect the diagnosed, but all members of the family, and all aspects of family life. And if the mental health problems are chronic, the situation only becomes exasperated. With one in five children in Bexar County experiencing mental illness, the chances are high that you know a family that’s currently dealing with this all-encompassing issue.
Over the last few months, we’ve brought to light the lack of emergency psychiatric care options for children in Bexar County. (Please see here and here for a detailed background.) The problem begins when a child experiences a mental, emotional or behavioral emergency. Due to the scarcity of options and low awareness of those that do exist, worried and exasperated parents and caretakers end up taking their children to the only place they can think of – an Emergency Room (ER). In fact, more than 1,300 children experiencing a mental health emergency visit a San Antonio ER each year. While the child and parent are there, they often spend hours waiting…and waiting….only to be turned away because the psychiatric care they so desperately need isn’t available to them. Additionally, Bexar County has a documented deficit of inpatient psychiatric beds for kids available.
This bleak reality leaves way too many of our children at risk.