Jenifer Walsh: I became an advocate for mental health, as a mom of 4, because my oldest son, who is 16, has been diagnosed with Early Onset Schizophrenia (onset age 7). My 9 year old son also has similar challenges to my oldest.
My advocacy stems from the immense struggle our family went through getting therapists to understand that my oldest, who didn’t particularly present in public, was having severe struggles (violent behavior, psychosis, meltdowns). We spent years dealing with everything on our own while therapists (mostly behaviorally minded) kept throwing up their hands.
I took matters into my own hands and had a neuropsychological exam done, which helped to a degree, but help was still not forthcoming.
It wasn’t until my son started suicidal ideation that we saw some responsiveness. When my son actually attempted suicide, the mental health community here began to take notice and made many apologies for the lack of support we had received.
Even though our school district was aware of the struggle with my oldest son, when my third child started school and was having awful difficulty with anxiety, sensory issues, phobias, etc. and ran out of school several times, the school district fought us about an IEP. We ended up having to go to mediation, and although we accommodated all their requests (including an IEE which said he should be placed for a diagnostic period in a therapeutic school and the therapeutic school should make the recommendation) even after this was completed and the therapeutic school recommended an IEP for ED and small classroom setting, the district still refused to give us the IEP. (Eventually their lawyer told them they had no choice but to give in).
Everything we have gone through and fought for has been hard won and through sheer determination. I am hoping to help advocate for others so that they do not have to go through the same struggles our family has gone through.
May we fix this broken system.
As a mother of four children, two of whom are affected by significant mental illnesses, I have an extensive background in advocating, researching, supporting and gathering resources for families. My goal is to help those just entering the mental health field navigate through the maze and support those in the midst of crisis. It is important for families/caregivers and parents to not feel alone when looking to help their children. I have experience with IEP advocacy, helping others learn how to speak with therapists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals as well as schools to get the help they need.