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Doctor, Doctor

physician-symbol-hiThis is my final post for the 2015 Blogathon which was hosted by a professional freelance writing group to which I belong.

Thank you to those of you who hung on, read, liked and provided comments during the month. It was an excellent challenge but, truth be told, I’ll be happy to blog less frequently for the next little while.

Today my children and I had a doctor’s appointment. But, before I get to the crux of this post, let me back up for a moment… If you’re American (or, rather, if you’re not Canadian and not familiar with our medical system), you may think that finding a family doctor, booking an appointment, and seeking out appropriate medical treatment is easy-peasy. 

True, most medical appointments, treatments and interventions are “free” (paid for by tax dollars) but finding a family doctor in your area who is taking on new patients is no easy feat. And, booking an appointment with a doctor or specialist can take weeks or months. They’re that booked up!

My doctor works downtown and we are far uptown. Driving downtown, even for a short appointment, is a journey in itself.  Luckily, our doctor is an awesome woman whom we’ve seen for many, many years.  Today, it struck me how complicated medical intervention is for mental health issues.

What's around the corner?

What’s around the corner?

For example, let’s say your child has a broken arm: You drive to emergency, check in, have the arm x-rayed, diagnosed, casted and go to follow up appointments.

Or, let’s say your child has asthma. You have her tested, receive feedback, perhaps get a “puffer” or other medicine and learn to adapt. I realize it’s not always this easy but in many cases an injury or illness can be addressed directly.

Mental health conditions (for kids and adults) are generally never straightforward. Usually, other conditions have to be ruled out because there’s often no 100% accurate diagnosis. Then, even if a disorder is identified, say it’s ADHD or autism or schizophrenia or OCD, the treatment, counselling, meds, follow ups, etc. etc. are often tweaked and changed – possibly over the course of a lifetime.

“Wait and see” can be frustrating and tiresome for everyone involved. Sometimes a clean diagnosis (even for something scary) is less ominous than a “Well, we could try this but…” explanation with no real end in sight. Those of you who live with mental health challenges or parent someone who does will know exactly what I mean!

Because of your son…

This post on Facebook made my eyes fill with tears.

Parties can be hard. Even when you’re popular. They’re especially hard when you’re unpopular, different or shunned in some way.

The compassion of including a boy with autism to a child’s birthday party (and going so far as to make alternate arrangements to make sure he’s comfortable) certainly made this mom’s whole day – possibly her whole year.

While it’s easy to dismiss kids who may be hard to handle, disruptive or shy, please encourage your child to invite “outsiders” to parties and playdates. This simple effort can make a world of difference to another human being.

Little Victories

gametime-300x225Playing board games as a family isn’t always the picture perfect TV commercial some might think. At least in our family it isn’t. More often than not, games night (or day) ends in someone crying, yelling or stomping off.

I decided today that we’d play only as much as we could during a rainy day game of Risk. I think we lasted more than an hour when voices rose loud in competition and the energy reached its peak. Some might think it’s a failure to “take a break” and go our separate ways. I think it’s pure strategy. No one gets hurt, there was no yelling or sore feelings and we got to enjoy some creative non-screen interaction for more than an hour.

Hurrah for small victories!

Round Up

232Only four more days to go!

As much as I love to write, blogging every day for 30 days isn’t always fun and comes with its own stress. Still, I’m happy to report that I only missed one day of blogging and now have a great deal of content to look back on and share with readers, editors and friends.

Today I want to do a round up of some of my favourite and the most popular posts on Kids and Mental Health:

For Extreme Parenting Read The Glass Castle – I’ve read this blisteringly honest memoir a few times. It’s a true story that you’ll never get out of your head once you’ve read it. Trust me on that.

Can Children Be Hoarders? This is by far the most popular post on my blog. I hadn’t realized that children can also have hoarding tendencies. Guest poster Janine Adams outlines how hoarding can start and what to do about it.

Is Your Kid’s Glass Half Full? This is also a popular post based on parents’ ability to influence positive thinking in our children. Not always easy to do when you’re tired or not feeling so positive yourself.

What topics would you like to see explored on this blog?

White Knuckle Parenting

Walking up the hill Kortright CentreToday was my kids’ last day of school. While I scratched my head in astonishment that yet another school year had passed us by, I also realized I had to give out the teacher gifts we had purchased and arrange other end of year activities – stat.

Excited to wait at the school door when they exited for the last time this year, the sky boomed with thunder and rain just as I jumped in the car  to pick ’em up (I’m too far to walk to the school). Other parents and grandparents stood by with raincoats and umbrellas trying to say good-bye as we all huddled against the rain.

Both my children are suffering from colds but I thought we should mark this epic occasion in some way so I offered to take them for frozen yogurt. We inched our way through rainy slick traffic only to find the local fro yo shop PACKED full of kids and parents. Sigh… back into the car we went.

We arrived home, the kids dumped their bags, lunch packs, locker paraphernalia and shoes at the front door. We walked up the steps and what do we find? A big pile of cat vomit. Could this day get any better?!

I’m happy to say we turned it around. After a “surprise” dinner (hot dog mushroom bean tomato stew on garlic bread) we tried to rush my son to his baseball game (which was of course cancelled due to the rain). My daughter and I then walked to the LCBO to pick up a bottle of wine for my neighbour who was throwing herself a birthday party. We stopped in, wished her a happy birthday, said hi to neighbours new and old and now we’re home, along with a calm sky.

I hope your kids’ last of day of school is less epic.  Happy summer!

Shake It Up For ADHD

adhdAre you aware of the advocacy group CADDAC (Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada)? This organization (and its sister org CADDRA) is a useful resource for parents, families, psychologists, educators and those diagnosed with ADHD themselves.

Today, on the CADDAC blog, there’s a useful explanation of a new University of Mississippi study indicating that movement actually helps facilitate learning and growth for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. From the study: “Hyperactive movements associated with the disorder may allow children with ADHD to enhance their cognitive abilities.”

This makes sense in many ways as many of us (even those without ADHD) feel the need to stand up, “fidget”, tap fingers or toes, twirl hair, or bounce up and down to get our creative juices flowing.

Sitting still for long periods of time not only inhibits healthy development and may cause severe health implications but, for children with ADHD, it can cause stress and dissuade imagination and working memory. 

Is positive thinking the key for kids?

Here’s more from U of M: “By allowing the hyperactive behaviors to continue, children with ADHD are able to increase their arousal and remain alert in the classroom. Yet conventional teaching and treatment methods demand ADHD children remain still, and the ability to focus on the lesson is lost in the child’s struggle to focus on not squirming or fidgeting, said Sarver.”

These days, many educators and teachers (at least in our school board) better understand that occasional movement, special seating arrangements, more frequent “health breaks” and re-imagined dynamics not only allows all students to more fully enjoy school but allows those with ADHD to fit in, become more engaged and reach their full learning potential.

While meds like Adderall or Vyvanse may work for some, others might be interested in choosing an alternative to Western medicine by way of natural supplement. Here’s an informative article that may shed light on questions about supplements: https://www.cognitune.com/best-natural-adderall-alternatives/

Please note: This article was shared by agreement with myself and Cognitune.

Vapid

city

Her smile is as plastic as her shoes.

She looks at me with vacant eyes.

“Want some gum?” She says with creamy teeth and pink pearl lips.

When she talks her eyes never settle on mine.

“What’s new?” She says, uninterested.

The sun glints on her white-yellow hair bringing out hints of the dark brown underneath.

“Gotta go.” She gets up and tugs on her skirt, giving me a half-smile as she walks away, checking her phone.

Father’s Day Blues

fathers-day-300x300If you’re in North America, you’ll know today is Father’s Day.

While this is a joyous occasion for many families, there are others for whom Father’s Day brings grief, indifference or painful memories.

Stemming from a quick peek at Facebook today, I see that many are happy (me included) to reflect heartfelt wishes to fathers who are present and also tender words for those fathers who are no longer around – both literally and figuratively.

For children living with divorce, adoption, death or who are estranged from their dads, occasions like this spark sadness. Many will be spend today celebrating or reflecting on good times with loving fathers yet many others will reflect on “what could have been” or “what should be.”

What does Father’s Day mean to you?

The Waiting Game

waitlistI’m sad to say I missed a day of blogging yesterday. Dock me ten points during the blogathon. ):

Ironically, I missed posting because I was attending a parent advisory board meeting for a mental health organization and passed out cold when I got home around 9 pm. This was the first meeting of a newly configured board of (mostly) women whose families are affected by mental health challenges.

One issue that always comes up when talking about mental health intervention is waiting lists. The waiting list is the torturous reality that most, if not all, parents and children face after contacting a government-run mental health care agency.

Rarely will a child be seen right away. If there’s a real crisis (and we joked last night about the clinician’s version of crisis versus the family’s version), families can head to their nearest ER and be seen within a few hours.

However, most families require short or long-term counselling and programs for their child in addition any crisis intervention.Because waiting lists are so long (many people wait 1o months or more before their first appointment), frustration, sadness and stress ensues.

What can be done? I’ll be posting more about Ontario’s changing mental health strategy (of which I have some insight) in the coming months. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) also has a decent list of ideas for children and families currently on waiting lists, including:

  • Checking in frequently with your family doctor
  • Putting your child or youth onto other lists for services in your community/city
  • Taking advantage of any employee insurance or private services (which can often happen within days) available
  • Spending good quality time with your child
  • Getting enough rest and having fun with the whole family in order to reduce stress

We have a long, long way to go before lists can be cut down to more reasonable wait times. Parents and kids with mental health challenges have enough on their plates and sitting on a waiting list for months at a time does nothing to counteract that frustration.

Incarceration Day

2prison-05Today I had lunch with an old friend from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years; needless to say we had a lot of catching up to do.

It was great fun to meet again and catch up (of course Facebook provides advanced info). Beyond discussing our youth and mutual friends, S. and I have something else in common – we both work in the field of mental health, family and corrections.

While S.’s work involves hands-on counselling, social work and research, I interview experts and write about issues related to these same topics. We had a stimulating conversation about what’s at the root of offenders – what makes them tick and what many have in common.

This topic deserves pages and pages of research and writing. But, because this is in blog format I will get straight to the point: We agreed that mental health challenges and a history of violence and abuse is at the core of most offenders/offences.

This discussion reminds me of the painfully honest film that shines a light on offenders who have gotten out of the prison system and are trying to make their way in the world. Just thinking about A Hard Name hurts my heart.

While it’s easy to say: “Lock ’em up” (and so we should in many cases), dismissing or hiding offenders away in the prison system does not get rid of the problem. Having a better understanding of good mental health, neglect, and child and domestic abuse is the key to preventing offences and ripping peoples’ lives apart.

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like governments and the public at large are realizing more and more that good mental health makes a huge impact on society.