Our Community desperately needs support for parents. We are living in an age where by the press of a button anything can be bought and sold online including drugs. As our economy continues to tumble and parents are forced to work long hours to keep up with mortgage payments or rent, children are left behind.
What do our children do to occupy their time? Sometimes they get into trouble with peers. Sometimes they get into trouble on the internet. Sometimes they condition their brain to shut off socially or spiritually with hours of video games. Sometimes they find ways to get positive reinforcement for negative behavior like cutting, suicide threats, stealing, or missing school. After all negative attention is better than no attention. Sometimes children have serious mental illness and parents are frantic and confused by a system that tries to be helpful but is limited by its lack of resources and metaphorical tied hands due to political arguments both at the federal and provincial level.
What is missing? A community that values prevention education. Beyond crisis management, which our health care dollars are not able to keep up with, we as a community need to value prevention. Prevention education, while it cannot easily be measured in the present , can be easily measured in the future of our children, and after all, isn’t that what most parents and service providers are invested in? The unfortunate fact is that if government cannot measure its programs in terms of statistics showing results, whether the program is useful or not, it get shuts down. This was the case when prevention workers were removed from the North Vancouver and West Vancouver school districts. The prevention program while valued by almost every parent that encountered it, was not valued at a government level.
Prevention Education is critical. How do we educate our kids about street drugs, bullying, safe sex, internet hazards, porn, sex trafficking, mental health concerns, depression, suicide? How do we have these tough conversations with our kids? How can we guarantee that when parents are not around that the mental health system is doing their part in valuing these prevention topics through education to parents and kids. Beyond education who is around besides youth workers with huge case loads to facilitate meaningful relationships with our kids either through after school programs or prevention programs?
What we have right now is a government who values crisis programs because they can be measured in terms of cost. Statistics can be gathered easily of who comes through the hospital doors for mental health crisis, substance abuse issues, rape and sexual health crisis. Surely we understand that just because we can measure crisis statistics well doesn’t mean that we are actually making a meaningful difference in our community? The article in the link below proves just that. We do not have the resources to deal with the number of youth that are showing up to the hospital with mental health emergencies. What are we doing here? I think we have it backwards. I believed it when I worked in prevention and I believe it now. The money needs to go into prevention education programs so that the future of our kids do not end up at a 30 min psych consult in an emergency hospital with a 1 to 2 counselling visit follow-up and then a long wait list for continued service. If prevention programs existed these kids could be seen or at the very least be followed by prevention specialists through after school programs, youth groups, and counselling visits which would include being led by a child psychiatrist. It would be similar to what we already had but was eliminated.
Prevention prevents a crisis culture. It prevents the crisis from occurring in the first place. It prevents drug addiction, rape, HIV, Hep C, Suicide, gang involvement, and mental health crisis.
When we have a community that values meaningful relationship we get people spending their time and energy on advocating for prevention education with service providers like prevention clinicians, nurses, psychiatrists, and educators who move into the community making relationship with vulnerable kids their number one priority while also taking care of families by encouraging and educating parents on preventive measures to take with their kids.
I believe parents already know this, and for the most part probably already take such measures. I think where it gets confusing is in the school and mental health system where prevention programs keep getting cut. As a community I believe we have a responsibility to help our parents and their children. We need to stop cutting programs, and stop encouraging a band aid model. We need to continue to value prevention models of health care because after all the communities future depends on it.