Morning Zen

My Daughter Survived and Rose Above the Stigma

August 30, 2018

~ Diary entry – 2006 ~

As I have gone back over the suitcase loaded with paperwork from evaluations of my daughter dating back to 1990, I could see areas that pertained to diagnosis were not linked to effective treatment and services for the entire family. As a parent, I did not understand any of the processes, reports or information that was shared with me about her condition. I had lots of questions, but I did not get any answers that helped or could lead me to a place where any form of treatment could begin for my daughter. Looking back over the scores and evaluations and treatment plans written on her IEP-(Individualized Education Plan), I just wanted to cry. If only someone would have helped me to understand better what I was dealing with instead of talking to me from a professional standpoint maybe -just maybe I would have been able to advocate and target areas where some improvement in her life at an early age could have made a difference today. The past is filled with so many unanswered questions and opportunities that were never explored.

It’s now 2006; it isn’t a struggle anymore, it is a fight. It is a fight with the government and authorities at the highest levels, to first of all make mental health a top priority with adequate funding in the nation and to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness; which is one reason why those who need the services don’t seek them out. And for parity, because God knows no one can afford what it really takes to have quality mental health care that is needed for children and adults in this nation.

  • It is a fight with policies and procedures and criteria that only once served a small population of the mentally ill. As the population of mental illnesses has increased appropriate policies and procedures should support and reflect the needs of the consumers.
  • It is a fight to stay sane and try to deal with the everyday crisis and problems one minute at a time, as caregivers struggle with jobs, schools, family and other obligations associated with their lifestyle.
  • It is a fight for those parents who have become knowledgeable about the fragmented system and have learned how to keep at least our head above the water when we engage with professionals and agencies who do not respect the parent’s role in advocacy or their voice.
  • It is a fight to get child-serving agencies to collaborate with each other and build partnerships with families to provide linguistic and culturally competent services that are child-centered, family-focused and flexible to meet the needs of the family.

Reform is a slow process, advocacy and promoting awareness is a slow process. Deterioration of one’s mental health is also a very slow process – I witness the spirit and life of a young lady die slowly every day because her mental health and developmental needs are not being met through the services that are provided within the system.

The Surgeon General’s Workshop was designed to make recommendations for someone like my daughter, someone who has fallen through the gaps, someone who has experienced trauma, violence, and abuse. She is someone who has been remarkably resilient as she faces each day with uncertainty about her tomorrow.

~ Diary entry – 2018 ~

Today August 10, 2018 my daughter is graduating from Florida Careers College from the Medical Assistant Technician program, she received honors in Pharmacology and Drug Administration Modules and received high grades throughout the program. She currently works in the back office at a local doctors office performing various job skilled duties. She was determined to be successful, and her hard work paid off. We are so proud of her.

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About the Author

René Anderson

René Anderson works at the University of South Florida College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, Department of Child and Family Studies.  René has a long history of active involvement in conducting research focused on strengthening services and supports for children and youth with mental health challenges and their families. In March, 2017, René was invited by Senator Jeanne Shaheen to participate in a panel discussion and film screening in Washington, DC, illuminating expert viewpoints on a crucial civil rights issue affecting people with serious mental illness and their families. René is the former Founding President of the Tampa Chapter of the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health.

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