By Lisa Lambert
Lisa Lambert is the executive director of the Parent/Professional Advocacy League, which is subtitled “The Massachusetts Family Voice For Children’s Mental Health.”
“He doesn’t want to take the risk and have someone think he could be a shooter,” one mother said, “just because he has a mental health diagnosis.”
I was at a meeting with other parents whose children have mental health needs. This mother told us her son was reluctant to leave his high school classroom for an important evaluation, which included psychological testing.
Like much of America, we were talking about the recent and not-so-recent shootings on campuses and in communities across the country. For this mother, as with many parents whose children have mental health issues, the conversation is far more personal and troubling than for most.
Some parents said that in response to recent shooting incidents, their children are dropping out of services or refusing school supports so they won’t risk their peers or teachers finding out why they get treatment.
As a parent, this breaks my heart. Young adults shouldn’t have to choose between the safety found in avoiding treatment and the healing found in seeking it.
During our discussion, another mother reported that her son was in his first year of college and struggling to complete all his coursework. Freshman year is a stressful time for many students and even more so for students with depression. Because her son had had special education services in high school, he could access supports there to help him manage his academic and emotional stress.
She encouraged him to go to the college student services office to get help. He responded, “I’d rather drop the classes I am most behind in. If I go there, the professors and other students will know I have mental health problems. They might think I could be the next shooter.”
Often, as a news channel covers the latest shooting, the speculation immediately jumps to mental illness. Continue reading