365 days ago our child stepped in front of a subway car because they didn’t receive the help they needed. They asked for it… many times. To multiple people. Including me. They were told to keep reaching out when in distress. They did. There was no prevention… just confirmation that what they were suffering was common… and hard to diagnose in youth.
In addition to amplifying the Myles to Mars campaign, launched by the formidable team from Myles Ahead, I have spent the last year advocating (on behalf of Mars) for a more holistic and thorough approach to pediatric, mental health emergencies. In 2020, Mars was assessed by a pediatric, psychiatry team and released with no medical interventions. Twice. Mars didn’t die because of societal prejudice and homophobia…. For the most part, Mars’ community embraced xem. Mars died because they were mentally ill and no one thought it was fatal. Including me. After a year of communicating with hundreds of parents who have suffered similar loss, I am left with the tragic realization that this is not uncommon.
If you bring your child into a pediatric hospital with a heart defect, our system may spend hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars to diagnose and correct. You might be greeted by Spider-Man washing your windows, get well cards, birthday cakes, rooms for your parents… teams of doctors meeting on your case daily… every resource the medical community has, is granted. Your child becomes a hero for fighting the disease, alongside the medical community…
and so they should.
That is not what greeted us in the emergency psych ward for children. Ward 7a. Stigma greeted us …not from the staff…but the obvious lack of resources.
I won’t detail here the conversations we are having around the ecology of this particular space… or spaces like it …because I don’t want to jeopardize the progress being made. It’s also important for me to note that I do not blame any one person or institution… suicide in children is often a perfect storm. But I do want to recommend to everyone here to look around and ask… does my family doctor talk to us about mental health? Is there a class on mental health at my children’s school? Does that book on pregnancy and child development have a chapter on mental health milestones? Why are the wait times for a child’s mental health appointment longer than the dentist?
One disease should never be held as more noble than another. Mars’ death is the punishing outcome of that inequity.
These last 365 days have left us with the greatest sorrow and often unbearable despair. And… as any parent can imagine … tremendous guilt. However, what I have never felt, was alone. And that is where hope grows and reconstitutes itself.
Thank you to our family, friends, colleagues and community for your unconditional support this year. Every week we receive an unexpected note, donation or gift from a tender heart… it’s remarkable. You continue to lift us… and guide us…and on this November 13th, 2021… I can feel the agony and gratitude simultaneously. That is the gift of Mars.
For Children: This storybook teaches kids about freeze, flight and fight and helps them learn some basic self-regulation skills.
For Youth: Guides and podcasts for youth to develop resilience, emotional intelligence and self-awareness to thrive in the modern world.
For Caregivers: Information to help parents take the appropriate actions when their child has a mental health emergency.
For Educators: A reference guide for adults to help children and youth who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. The guide includes warning signs, action steps and an emergency action plan guide.