Today we hear from Dr. Dan Powell, our soft-spoken and much-loved provider who mainly works at our Woodlake location. Here, he teaches us how to speak about mental illness without the stigma that's commonly associated.
Today is Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. The National Federation of Families has declared this year's theme to be: "Out of the Shadows: Exposing Stigma."
As healthcare providers at Impact Urgent Care, we frequently have the privilege of providing care for children with mental health issues who present with acute illness. While addressing the child's acute illness is paramount, an equally important issue (as with all children we treat) is addressing any associated family or parental concerns. Without a doubt, one of the greatest challenges parents face when caring for their child with any mental health diagnosis is dealing with the stigma of mental illness.
Whether your child is struggling with Depression or Situational Anxiety, or more chronic conditions such as ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder/Aspergers, you are already well-aware of the overt and sometimes subtle ways that the stigma of mental health illness can impact a child and his or her ability to navigate the waters that other children breeze through at school or athletics, or even just going out to eat and going to the movie theater. Reversing the stigma of childhood mental health illness will not happen overnight, but efforts are definitely underway to begin the process, and events such as Children's Mental Health Awareness Day are critical in raising public awareness and educating all of us on how we can make a difference.
The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health (www.hogg.utexas.edu) has produced a brochure titled Language Matters in Mental Health that gives excellent guidelines for HOW WE TALK about persons with a mental health condition. Saying, "He has a mental health condition" instead of, "He's mentally ill" - or "She has Anorexia Nervosa" instead of, "She's an Anorexic" may seem like potato - po-tah-toe to folks who don't have (or live with a family member who has) a mental health condition but for those of us who do, it's a night-and-day difference that expresses volumes about a person's attitude toward mental health and/or the stigma of being labeled. Educating your child's siblings, friends and teachers on the impact of the word choices we make when talking about a child with a mental health diagnosis is crucial to helping shape a healthy and encouraging environment for them to thrive. This approach is called "people-first language" and can open up communication lines with others that take a concern for your child's well-being.
Caring for a child with mental health issues can be an enormous challenge for their parents, and we hope you will consider us a resource you can depend on at Impact Urgent Care. We count it as a privilege.
Dan Powell, M.D.
Staff Physician, Impact Urgent Care