If it were not for social work interventions I had as a child, my life trajectory may have been completely different.
Guest author: Melanie Washington, MSW, MPH, PhD
If it were not for social work interventions I had as a child, my life trajectory may have been completely different. I am eternally grateful for those individuals who, with moderate intervention, helped to shape the individual that I am today and be a part of what facilitated the passion that I have for mental health care for children and adolescents. With my life experiences, both personally and professionally, I fervently believe that every child deserves the opportunity to have mental health treatment, therefore it is my hope through my future work we will be able to figure out solutions to help increase access to mental health care for all children.
I had my first interaction with a social worker in second grade. I was fortunate to have parents who recognized the struggle that I was having and were unconcerned about the stigma of seeking mental health treatment. In general, I was an irritable, angry, and strong willed child, with a low sense of self-worth (it wasn’t until I was an adult that I was diagnosed with depression and learned that this is often how depression presents in young children). However, at school, I was shy and quiet, allowing myself to be walked on by my peers and then I would come home and take it out on my family, verbally and physically. It was through family and individual work that I was able to start making improvements and gaining more confidence in myself.
Then in sixth grade, I became well acquainted with the school social worker who assisted me in dealing with tremendous challenges and stress at home (although this time I was not the cause of it). Her assistance and support shaped not only my personal trajectory, but also my career.
After obtaining my bachelors in social work, I worked as an intake coordinator in an outpatient mental health clinic for children and adolescents; I saw the heartache and immense challenges caregiver’s face in attempting to access treatment for their children. Therefore, I made the decision to go back to school to become a researcher to find solutions to this issue. I have also begun working on an exciting new grant funding a white paper exploring the issues of access to child and adolescent mental health care in Western New York.
Potential (and too often) Real Barriers:
There are many barriers faced by families as they attempt to obtain mental health services for their children. Yet I passionately believe we also have also have the ability to create some solutions for children and adolescents, their families, mental health care organizations, and the research and policy community.
Possible Solutions for Organizations:
Possible Large System Solutions:
New York Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for Primary Care
SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach
US Dept. of Health & Human Services. Access to Adolescent Health. Access to Mental Health Care
American Psychological Association. Strengthening the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Workforce
American Psychological Association. Increasing Access and Coordination of Quality Mental Health Services for Children and Adolescents