Can't vs. Won't.

April 22, 2016

We all want the best for our children, in health, happiness, family life, friendships, work satisfaction, prosperity, financial security and many other variables that impact their sense of well being. I think of the combination of all these factors as the desire that each of us has for our children to be able to be their best selves.

For so many children, behavioral illness blocks the path toward achieving their full potential, and imposes problems that complicate their lives. Think of the child with ADHD who is unable to pay attention well enough to learn in school, or the anxious child who is too much on edge to be able to tolerate even small transitions, or the depressed adolescent who feels too badly to maintain basic routines. We all know children and teenagers with problems not unlike these.

Our health systems do a reasonable job at providing care for children with most chronic illnesses, allowing children with asthma to breathe comfortably and children with diabetes to control their blood sugar, for example. Too many children with behavioral illnesses do not receive effective care, or even any care, much more often than we should tolerate. The reasons are complex, relating to the ways our doctors are trained, the ways they are paid, and basic societal concepts about what is health and what is illness.

My goal is to help close the gap, to help make it more routine for the quality and availability of care of behavioral illness to be on par with the care of other medical problems, and in doing so to help more of our children have the chance to be their best selves.