Cadillac News: “Mental health: Bridging the gap between parents, professionals,”

by Kayla Kiley

For the past 15 years, Chris Davis has felt alone.

Davis, who lives in Grayling, has a 15-year-old son with severe emotional disorder (SED); since he was young, his mother has felt judged and criticized as a parent; people didn’t understand that her son has SED, a neurological disorder, which causes him to act out.

But recently, at a conference in Cadillac for families with children who have SED and professionals, Davis didn’t feel so alone. She was among the 33 families and 32 professionals who attended the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health (NLCMH) conference, “Youth Guided, Family Driven Care: In the System of Care for Children with SED.”

Davis was among the many parents who for the first time felt like they weren’t alone in raising a child with SED. And together, these parents felt like they could make a difference in their communities.

Regional parents and professionals attended the conference to learn more about SED and create partnerships to enhance communication and partnerships between the groups.

Both parents and professionals, which included school officials, therapists and representatives from the Department of Human Services, learned what’s important to the other group and brainstormed ways to benefit children living with SED in order to create a stronger community.

The conference was led by Patricia Miles, a mental health expert from Oregon, and parent co-trainer, Toni Issadore of Arizona.

“We’re knocking down the boundaries between parents and professionals and enhancing communication,” Davis said. “It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and watch your child go through things because you don’t know how to help. But there’s more out there. And now, we’ve been given the knowledge to help our children.”

Christine Boorsma of Cadillac, who has two children with SED, also found the conference invigorating.

“It’s educating us on how to reach out to the community to change the whole outlook on children with SED,” Boorsma said.

“My biggest hope of family-driven care is putting families in the middle of the planning – where parents are involved and making choices, and not just the professionals, because we are the ones who care for and raise them in the home.”

As a therapist, Mary Hubbard, NLCMHA community treatment program director, agreed that there need to be more exchanges between parents and professionals who are working with children with SED.

“There’s a reciprocity that needs to happen,” she said. “I’m a therapist, but I can’t change a life in my office.”

Mental health advocates felt that the conference was a success and look forward to seeing parents and professionals working together to benefit children with SED.

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