Part 1: The Crisis
This will be a three part blog, and I apologize in advance for its length. I really believe it will be worth it in the long run.
As I mentioned in the about section of my blog, I am a proud Army Veteran. Although I did not serve in a combat zone, I saw my share of dangerous and stressful situations as Military Police (MP) and a Special Agent with the Criminal Investigation Division (CID). I honestly believe the most terrifying times of my life have been when I am faced with the unknown possibilities of one of my children’s mental health crises: the uncertainty of what they are dealing with; the unimaginable pain and torment racing through a mind that has yet to experience some of life’s many hardships. All I want to do is pull them close, squeeze them, and tell them it will all be alright when all they want to do is scream, cry, run, break things, or even fight. I pray that you never find yourself in a position where your child is in a manic state, a red violent haze, a suicidal depressive state, a homicidal rage, or any of the many descriptive mental health situations my family has seen. Unfortunately, in Colorado, as in most states, the number of children struggling with these overwhelming conditions is continuing to rise. As you will read in this piece, the number of available beds at Emergency Departments (ED), Inpatient Facilities, Residential Facilities, and other youth facilities are not increasing. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides great information on many mental illness topics, as well as getting you in contact with your local NAMI group.
If you are one of the unfortunates to join this venture, let me welcome you and your child on the roller-coaster ride that is the mental health system. Also, let me reassure you: you are not alone in this endeavor. Hopefully this blog, article, informational, whatever you want to call it, will help to alleviate some of the overwhelming anxiety and fear you may experience, so that you can focus on your child. Take a few deep breaths and keep reading. No, seriously… Close your eyes, take in a couple of calming deep breaths, tell yourself you can do this, and read on.
My wife and I have been married for just over 20 years, and both of our extremely intelligent, emotional, and inquisitive 16 and 17 year old boys struggle with mental health issues. I would be lying if I said it gets easier, but with the right support team, group training, coping skills, follow-through, and a whole lot of patience (did I mention patience galore?), you and your child will fine tune your communication skills to be able to relay each of your needs. We have been at it for 10+ years, and I can tell you it is still a long term goal with missteps and hiccups along the way. I have had the pleasure of talking to many other parents who have kindly shared their children’s victory stories. Take solace in the idea that hope is out there and it is attainable!
A mental health crisis will strike when we are least prepared, and at the worst possible time. As parents, we want to help our children with any problem in which they may find themselves. However, the crisis of the mind is not so easily understood, so we feel crippled as caregivers, unable to find a bandage for our ailing kids. I am here to tell you, there are many families just like yours struggling with these same issues. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates “just over 20 percent (or 1 in 5) children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.” I bring this to your attention, not to increase your blood pressure, but to gain point out there is help and you will not have to face the challenges alone.