Today’s Star Tribune article (thank you Chris Serres) exposing the violence done (broken bones) to Minnesota’s youngest citizens while in state care reminded me of my own experiences growing up and my more recent encounters as a volunteer CASA guardian ad litem.
In my middle class 1977 neighborhood, the family next door’s 15 year old grandson became psychotic and behaved dangerously.
Mom and dad tried to find him mental health help to no avail.
The only option that provided treatment for their son was the Juvenile Justice system. The boy’s entrance into the system required he be charged with a crime. The treatments offered were incomplete and ineffective and he killed himself a few years later.
Since then, I’ve witnessed parents failing to find mental health services for their child many times, experienced dozens of children’s mental health tragedies and hundreds of mental health near tragedies. Only extreme cases make the news.
One of my CASA guardian ad Litem boys was on multiple powerful medications at one time. All of them with suicidal ideation labels. He received sporadic and ineffective treatment and tried to kill himself many times.
No child enters the child protection system without extreme and repeated trauma.
Half the 50 children I worked with were sexually abused most of them for 3 or 4 years before being removed from the home. One poor little girl was two years old when she was molested.
In 2014, America put 20,000 one and two year old children on psychotropic medications. Johnson and Johnson was recently fined 4 billion dollars for illegally selling psychotropic medications to pediatricians for use on children (there are 4000 cases awaiting trial).
We as a community fear and loath the discussion about mental health and child abuse and have sidestepped it for many years. Treating mentally troubled people like criminals has become common as has the medicating of children needing mental health services for trauma.
Our refusal to face the depth and scope of this sadness is the reason 1/3 of children in Child Protective Services are forced to take psychotropic medications and 2/3 of youth in our juvenile justice system have mental health diagnosis – half of them with multiple and serious diagnosis.
Our distaste for this discussion allows legislators to not see the exponential growth of tortured invisible children and 40 years of ineffective mental health services.
This goes a long way towards explaining our state’s racial disparity, failing schools and unsafe streets.
There are still to few opportunities for treating traumatized children in this state. Just like 1977.
We are all affected every day by our state’s mental health issues and children that just can’t cope without our help.
ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and trauma informed treatments are redefining what it means to be mentally healthy and how crisis nurseries, quality daycare and trauma informed treatment can make our children and communities great again.
Forward this to your State Representative and others you feel might do something. Join KARA here for weekly updates on children’s issues.