After we returned to our hotel, we had a little bit of time before our last meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent's (AACAP) Legislative Conference. My daughter, who was still sleep deprived from the night before, decided to take a short nap while I relaxed and ponderered over the events of our amazing day. We didn't get to actually meet any of our elected officials, but we did get to go to three of their offices and speak with their assistants about the national workforce shortage among child and adolescent psychiatrists, the need for sweeping reform in mental health and to thank these members of Congress for their support of continued funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Even though Princess didn't say much at most of these meetings, she was the face of mental health. The representatives probably couldn't believe that this sweet angelic child had ever faced the adversity that we spoke of. I wish I had had more time to tell them more of our amazing journey. I do have their email addresses so I can email them. Hmmm...
After a time of reflection and rest, we headed down to the grand ballroom for our debriefing meeting. Many of the psychiatrists, residents and fellows shared wonderful stories about their meetings. There were also family members like Princess and I who shared their stories as well. I shared how at one meeting an assistant asked why psychiatrists who serve the adult population cannot be retrained to serve children and adolescents. At that moment, I did not have a good answer for him. I think I was just dumbfounded. If I could turn back time, here's what I would have said: "I believe a great psychiatrist is like a great teacher. Some teachers are professors. They are very good at teaching at the college level. Still others are fabulous preschool or kindergarten teachers who teach children at the beginning of their academic careers. The remaining teachers fall somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum. We would never ask a kindergarten teacher to teach college students. It is just not her forté. Conversely, we would never ask a college professor to teach kindergarteners. He (or she) would fail miserably because he (or she) is not gifted in this arena. The same is true for gifted child and adolescent psychiatrists. They know children and adolescents best. They know how to develop a rapport with them. I'm sure my daughter would not have wanted to see a doctor who she didn't feel was able to relate to her."
I don't fault this man. He may have never had experience with a child or teen with mental illness. That's OK. My daughter may have given him a little education. Her mother will follow up as well.
As the meeting and the conference drew to a close, I have to hope that my presence, my daughter's presence, along with the other doctors and family members attending AACAP Legislative Conference made a difference for the future of mental health in our nation.
Stay tuned here as I delve more into the key issues presented at this conference. I'll also keep you posted as I follow up with our legislators. Don't worry though, there's always a funny story lurking. After all, I am raising a drama queen.