Our State of ...

Our State of Mental Health

by Lianne Castelino www.whereparentstalk.com

It is steadily coming out of the closet.  And that's a good thing.  The words mental health or mental illness are not as taboo as they used to be.  Millions upon millions of dollars have been earmarked, recently, for all kinds of programs from all kinds of organizations (Bell comes to mind) and now the Ontario government has announced it is granting $257 million over 3-years to help youth cope with issues ranging from eating disorders to anxiety.

Any additional money, in principle, and IF USED CORRECTLY, should help.

But I would suggest we are MISSING the point.

Again, addressing the end result and not the symptoms of the statistics is the issue here.  

Yes 1 in 5 kids in Ontario have been identified as dealing with mental health issues (9,000 in all).  And nearly 4,000 First Nations kids have been identified as struggling with a host of mental illnesses including substance abuse and suicide.

Let's look at the symptoms for a minute:

How many of these kids come from single-family or 'broken' homes.  (I am not suggesting a two-parent home is always ideal..there are many reasons for and against either side).

How many live in homes where both parents are working and must rely on daycare, nannies, babysitters, after-school programs during those critical before or after-school hours.

How many of these kids lived in divorced homes — shuttling back and forth from one parent to another or listening to one parent or another rip the other?

How many parents spend time on a regular basis talking to their kids and keeping the lines of communication open?

How many of these parents are educated about what to look for where mental health issues are concerned?

How many of these kids are left to take care of themselves by themselves at various points during the week to accommodate family schedules?

Have any of these so-called experts (government, childcare, etc.), ever visited a First Nations reserve to witness first hand the abject poverty and utter hopelessness that many of these families live in (for the most part).  (I happen to have seen this on several occasions as a news reporter and I can tell you it is nothing short of shameful that this continues to be allowed to happen in Canada. Let's start with the fact that more than 75% of First Nations live without access to clean running water.)  Wouldn't you be depressed as a youth?

I could go on.

The point being, it seems to me that there are all kinds of issues that seem to be afflicting kids of this generation, that our generation or older generations did not seem to have to contend with in such massive numbers.

A large part of it, I would argue, can be traced to the family situation.  

If we as a society spend more of our time, money and effort not just saying we need to 'build' stronger families but actually DOING IT, I would bet these types of issues would decrease.

How do we build stronger families?  

Make the work-week 4-days long.  Give families the 5th day to do family things.  This would also take more people off the unemployment rolls with more part-time jobs being available as a result.

or

Make the work day shorter so people can be with their kids during those critical after-school and dinner hours.

Make pre-natal classes mandatory across the country with quality instructors and quality materials.  Many people are having children with absolutely NO CLUE how to properly take care of him or her.  

Give parents who stay-at-home to raise their children a salary, a meaningful salary so they don't need to worry about money as they carry out their critically important work.

There are more ideas, but I will stop there.

We clearly have the money, don't we?  If we are putting another $257 million towards it.

The bottom line is this:  Children need their parents.  Children want their parents.  Parents need to be present in their kids lives, not just via skype and on the phone.  If this occurs then much of these 'mental issues' could well be resolved or never happen in the first place. 

The caveat of course, is parents need to understand their role.  This means not hovering and suffocating their kids so they become dependent, and spineless.  That's a whole other blog.

There are genuine mental disorders that need medical intervention, but those are in the minority.

If we are all just ships passing in the night, parents and kids, then what do we expect?

All this amounts to basic common sense to me.  No costly study, professional analysis or further research required.