I won’t claim to be someone who listens to The Daily every day, but I recently caught wind of the fact that they had an episode titled Inside the Adolescent Mental Health Crisis that I wanted to listen to. After listening to it, I also wanted to share it with my readers.
I found it interesting because I think the show does a good job of talking to people involved with treating kids and showing what the problem is. Starting with the conversation with a pediatrician, we learn that medical schools don’t effectively train doctors to deal with mental health issues. The risks to children they’ve been taught to deal with are external. These include viruses, broken bones from accidents, stitching cuts, etc. Today, however, the risks to kids have become much more internal. They are harming themselves due to mental health issues at rates we’ve never seen before. Doctors have not been trained to deal with those kinds of risks, and it is made clear that if you’re studying to be a pediatrician, you focus on the external risks because if a kid comes in with an internal risk, you’ll refer them to someone who specializes in mental health.
Of course, there’s a problem with that. For many communities, there are no mental health experts to send them to, or the ones there are so backlogged that kids in crisis are waiting months for an initial appointment. Thus, we see more and more kids ending up in emergency rooms, either because they have suicidal ideation and have nowhere else to go or because they have already harmed themselves. Either way, the ER staff is also unlikely to be properly trained to deal with mental health issues, and kids just go through the healthcare system without getting the mental healthcare they are desperate for.
This is a broken system. It will take a lot of work, time, and, yes, even money to fix. It will require making hard decisions and changing the system from medical school to insurance coverage to emergency services. Or we can keep doing what we are doing now even though it is not working for our kids.