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Why it's so hard for kids in crisis to access the mental health care they need in Santa Clara County

Original post made on Sep 17, 2022

Peninsula teen Brian has battled depression and suicidal behavior since he was 10 years old. When he was in crisis, his family had to wait weeks just to get him an appointment with a psychiatrist. Their experience is all too common.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 16, 2022, 9:31 AM

Comments (5)

Posted by Midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2022 at 12:42 pm

Midtown resident is a registered user.

It might be helpful to note that according to one staff physician I heard from, PAMF Urgent Care on principle does not give out psychoactive drug prescriptions (anti-depressants and such) to kids. So that is not an answer for those needing an MD to prescribe, as opposed to needing a bed, as in Brian's case. However, one solution to the dramatic shortage might be to train pediatricians to feel more comfortable with writing prescriptions, at least when they have a non-prescribing colleague (a psychologist, say) to work with. In our experience some (very good ones) do not and insist on patients finding a proper psychiatrist. With typical teenage depression and anxiety -- sadly, there is a well-defined pattern of this now -- I would trust an experienced pediatrician anytime to judge the pros and cons of prescription drugs. Meanwhile, when I was forced to do a recent survey of my own of private psychiatrists taking on minors, the picture was one of shameless extortion, incompatible in my view with the spirit if not the letter of Hippocratic oath; out of three dozen, the two with availability asked for $450/$500 per 20min session (but mind you, nothing happens until several hours of intake have been completed) and one stated that forms and paperwork processing (of which psychiatric interactions entail plenty) would cost $1450 per 45 min. Those extra two years in med school offer a splendid return on investment. For me the question becomes then whether this is the kind of professional to whom I want to entrust any aspect of my child's health. We need those who are ethical and have been treating our kids since an early age in holistic fashion, i.e. our pediatricians, to be given the means and confidence to address the current mental health epidemic.


Posted by Jon Keeling
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2022 at 10:34 am

Jon Keeling is a registered user.

Very good article. Interesting that it begins by arguing that it’s hard for kids to get mental health support and then concludes with multiple options for free mental health resources available to everyone… ;-)

I spent significant time as a “Crisis Counselor” for one of those resources – CrisisTextLine. This free service is available 24x7 and I am proud to say I have saved lives while volunteering with them. Memorize the number: 741741.

A double-edged sword for mental health (where both edges are good!) is Social-Emotional Learning programs. The absolute best one is ChallengeDay. Los Altos High is having that program again later this month and hopefully other schools in the area will be as well. That program also saves lives. Why do I call it a “double-edged sword”? On one side, it creates empathy, compassion and community for students who attend the powerful and often life-changing program. On the other side, after the program there is often a flood of demand for mental health staff, as students show interest in communicating their feelings more. Both of these are of course good things. But it can definitely stress school mental health resources.

I think every high school should run ChallengeDay annually for a given grade (ideal is probably 9th grade). But it is also great for middle schools. For younger students, I recommend programs like “Start with Hello,” by SandyHookPromise.

Fortunately, kids these days are often much better equipped with the vocabulary and understanding to discuss their mental health struggles compared to their parents and grandparents. I was encouraged listening to a group of high school students at the “Teen Wellness Retreat” that I helped with last year & will be running a program at again this year (details to be announced soon).

And if you and/or your child would like to talk, please feel free to reach out to me. I have helped many people over the years & will continue to do so for many more. Talk is free, provided I have time.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2022 at 10:26 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Really good article. Not one private practice therapist in Palo Takes medi-cal. Talk therapy is one of these best methods for mental health strength. It should not have to come to crisis to get help . I am very supportive of school campus providing. Yet students have to leave class or miss a class to get therapy on campus. Not all feel comfortable entering the “Wellness Center” when seen by friends who are not going there.


Posted by Parent of Two
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2022 at 11:30 am

Parent of Two is a registered user.

Midtown resident makes a great point. It costs thousands of dollars to find support for your teen which most families can only afford to do once it becomes a crisis. Having more PAMF and other medical org pediatricians able to diagnose, refer and prescribe some of the lighter meds for say anxiety to a patient they have known for years could make mental health care more affordable and help more of our youth avoid a crisis.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Sep 26, 2022 at 7:05 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

"I hope that it means some of these teenagers will want to grow up to be psychotherapists or psychiatrists," Cawkwell said." All it takes is a little bit of training and they can become peer counselors -- it's another cog in the wheel of wellness to consider. Especially after "being there" so that one who's down can look up and reach the hand of somebody who knows what it feels like. Compassion, not money, is the driver.

Here's one way to become a peer counselor: Web Link


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