By Moisés Barón, Ph.D.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a time to pause and become more informed on how mental and behavioral health disorders can manifest themselves. It’s a time to rally together as a community to educate and inform. And the first step to building an understanding about the impact of mental health issues involves talking openly and taking action.
Here at the San Diego Center for Children, that is exactly what we do. You may have read in our recent email newsletter about 10 year old Nick*. He came to the Center dealing with some significant family changes that left him confused, hurt, and as result, getting into a lot trouble at school. He was at a risk of failing. Fortunately, through early identification and the realization that he needed help, Nick and his family were able to get the therapy and support he needed to return to school confident and secure.
And then there is the story of Melinda*. Daily panic attacks, alcohol abuse, self-inflicted injuries, depression and even contemplation of suicide, while trying to cope with bipolar disorder. Things looked so hopeless that Melinda was convinced that she “was going to die before 18.” She dropped out of several schools, and even refused to attend San Diego Center for Children when she initially got accepted into the program. But we kept communication open. And eventually, with the help of her teacher and therapist, she started to open up. With time and hard work, Melinda started to realize that “there are good adults that won’t hurt you.” She went on to flourish in school, and by the end of her first year at the Academy, she received the school-wide award for academic excellence.
And finally, you may have heard the incredibly inspirational story of Matt Savage, jazz phenom, pianist and composer. As a young child he could not tolerate music or sound in general and was diagnosed with a Disorder in the Autism Spectrum.
Fortunately, his parents sought out the critical support and therapy needed early on — not to change him, but to identify and support his unique talents and abilities. At age 6 ½, Matt received help that drastically reduced his sensitivity to sound and he soon immersed himself in all things musical. His abilities flourished, he went on to connect with some of the biggest names in jazz, and today, has created 11 albums! We are delighted that he will be performing at our upcoming 128th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, May 28, 2015.
Please join me, our Board and the rest of the San Diego Center for Children staff at this very special event. It will truly be a night to inspire and reflect on ways we, as a community, can help all kids and teens reach their full potential.
Finally, in honor of this Mental Health Awareness Month, I encourage you to keep talking and learning about mental health. Together, by listening and openly sharing, we can change the conversation about mental health.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy