Youth Mental Health Testimony

IMPACT Annual Assembly- October 28th, 2013

Deb Myers, Peace Lutheran Church

I come before you tonight to speak about the challenges of obtaining adequate and timely mental health care for children and teens in our community.

My best friend had a son who was being bullied at school. She and her husband were diligent in trying to work with teachers and school administrators to address the bullying and help their son find ways to cope. They got him into counseling. Then they got a phone call from their nephew saying that their son had plans to commit suicide.

They sought immediate psychiatric care but learned that there are NO IN-PATIENT pediatric psychiatric treatment options in Charlottesville. NONE. There are limited psychiatric beds for adults at UVa, but not for anyone 18 years or younger. To get immediate in-patient care, they would have to take their son to treatment facilities in Richmond or Roanoke. Those treatment facilities were out of their health insurance provider network so the cost of treatment was astronomical. Then there was the logistical issue of having one child in crisis, in a hospital so far from home and juggling the other realities of life: jobs and care of other children at home. They would be far away from their family support systems.

They were put on a one-two month wait list to see a doctor for out-patient help. They called to speed up the process and their wait was reduced to 2 weeks however the appointment was only for 15 minutes. Drugs were prescribed, without a thorough assessment. It took two weeks for the drugs to take affect and unfortunately, those drugs had devastating effects. Their son fell into an even deeper depression. Meanwhile they were trying to suicide proof their home.  This bright boy who had always got straight A’s was failing every subject at school. He couldn’t concentrate, his self-esteem plummeted and the bullying at school continued. They tried to get special accommodations at school to help their son, accommodations that are guaranteed by law, but are difficult to obtain in reality.

For these reasons, I am advocating that IMPACT vote for mental health. The stress of it all started to affect his parent’s emotional and mental health. They were hitting brick walls with both the medical & school systems. They were desperately trying to research treatment options. There was no support network to help them navigate any of this. They got very little sleep, because one of them had to sleep with their son every night, for fear he would try to kill himself.