A worthwhile way to spend a day

people at conference 2012Friday marked the 3rd anniversary of the PPAL Conference and this year it was a celebration. More than 500 of us got together to celebrate the work we do, whether as youth or parents or professionals with our own experiences of the system from the inside. I can report that I came away completely invigorated and I can’t wait for next year.

There is power in a room full of people pulling in the same direction. When I was growing up, we hid mental health needs as much as we could. There were after school specials about cutting and teen pregnancy and health classes to tell us not to drink or smoke, but the real support for kids in crisis was pretty thin. This conference room full of people today, all there to talk about children’s mental health and family support, represents a huge change.

We go through life being told the limits of every situation, but the unofficial theme of today could have been, “Know that you are not limited as you think.” The featured presenter, Marvin Alexander, President of the Board of Directors of Youth M.O.V.E. National, shared his story of being hospitalized for the first time at seven years old. While that sounded like an inauspicious start, he stood in front of us as a mental health professional explaining the details of how youth can and should be included in their own processes. He overcame his difficult start and inspires others to do the same. In short, he made it!The keynote speaker, Fletcher Wortmann, was equally inspirational, but his style was completely different. He walked us through his battle with crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder and was emotional about admitting that he still battles. The fact that he went through a lot of treatment and still went on to graduate from Swarthmore College gives me ammunition for the families I work with who are afraid that their children will never get to college because of the mental health support they get. This young man lives with a mental illness, and is choosing to live his best life anyway.

Youth were well-represented this year. I don’t remember being as conscious of Youth M.O.V.E. at last year’s conference. Good stuff. I was reminded of one of those inspirational posters you used to see everywhere. “Don’t walk in front of me. I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me. I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” We were reminded that we need to walk beside youth, when it comes to their mental health care.

Grace H. Scott is a Family Partner with Riverside Community Care.  Growing up, she helped hide her mother’s mental illness.  Now a mother of three herself, including one child with a complicated duel diagnosis, she does what she can to challenge the secrecy and stigma associated with mental health needs.  In that vain, she wants it known that she has Chronic Anxiety Disorder herself and has experienced depression intermittently.

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5 thoughts on “A worthwhile way to spend a day

  1. I go through the fight for my kids alone, no friends, no support. My son, now almost 22, is severely bipolar. I thought that having him a client of DMH would give me some manner of peace, which in some ways it has, but I am still his emotional support. Often he will call me several times a day. And recently my daughter was hospitalized twice, for hearing voices and suicidal ideation. I felt horrible, but all I could think was “NOT AGAIN! I CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN!” Yet I am….again. Can someone point me at a support group? Or email me?

    1. Hi Marla, We, PPAL, are a statewide organization dedicated to providing support to families such as yours. If you click the Find Help tab you will be able to see a list of support groups by town. You can also call our statewide or central office, the numbers are listed under contact tab. As evidenced by the attendance at yesterdays conference, I can assure you that you are not alone. PPAL receives request for support from families like yours everyday and true to our mission, we are here to help by offering information on resources, training’s and advocacy as well as support groups for parents, youth and families. Take a minute to join our email list and like us on Facebook as well.

  2. I also attended to Conference, As an adult who experienced the children’s system in the 70’s, I was very moved by the event. The room was full of my heroes; parents/ guardians, adult supporters, and Youth. Working with parents and youth is an honor and a privilege, and I only wish PPAL and Youth Move was around when I was that age, and my parents could have found the support they desperately needed.

    Thank you all for the hard work you do!

  3. Hi Marla, I am a parent of a diffently- abled child and I felt EXACTLY as you do, no family, no friends, no support. Then I attended my first PPAL conference on Thursday. I walked in and felt like was near tears the entire day, but they were good tears!! For once, I didn’t feel alone, or judged for the different path that my family has to take and the hard, sometimes unsupporyed choices that we have to make as a parent. I just wanted to reach out to you to tell you that you are not alone!! PPAL was there for me and they will be there for you too. I am going to call Diana Tucker of PPAL and leave her my phone number for you. Please look up her information on the PPAL website and call me, day or night, anytime. Sometimes we just need to hear a friendly voice on the other end who gets it!! I will end by telling you that by reaching out and leaving your comment proves that you are a good Mother…tired, but a good Mother and support for your family!! Remember that we have to take care of ourselves to be able to continue the job we do!! I send my love and prayers!! Call please….even if all you need is an ear to hear!!

  4. I am reaching out, and hoping someone can help me. My 19 y.o. son, who has severe Bipolar Disorder, has been a client of DMH since age 10. DMH is now wanting to close out his case, at a time when he will be needing a lot of transitional age support. There is a meeting next week, but these historically have not gone well, since they won’t be “asking” me if it’s o.k. to d/c him; they are telling me. I am unclear as to what to do, or how to handle this.

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