Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Collaborations and Challenges

Collaborating To Improve Child Mental Health
Last Friday, CHADD national president Anne Teeter Ellison and I attended our third children's mental health family summit. Facilitated by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), the summit meets twice a year, and workgroups meet between meetings. Besides the AACAP and CHADD, associations collaborating through the summit include the Autism Society of America (ASA), Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF), Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health (FFCMH, Mental Health America (MHA), and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Our objectives are to enhance access to and knowledge of science-based treatments and supports, and to counter anti-psychiatry attacks on the legitimacy of such treatments and supports. The summit is one of those opportunities that national association leadership offers. One of our priorities is to encourage and support such collaborations at the state and local level. Families and professionals need better understanding and more respectful dialogue. These meetings complement CHADD’s efforts to build a social movement to assist persons with AD/HD and related disorders.

AACAP has just produced materials, including a booklet, video, and practice parameter on AD/HD.

Challenges in the Faith Community
Part of my family’s success in dealing with AD/HD in our family has been due to our church. Four boys with special needs, including our pastor’s son—all within two years of age of each other—grew up and came through the church together. Our church community was an important natural support for our son and family.

Two events occurred last week that saddened me, as a Presbyterian, and reinforced how much more CHADD needs to do to more effectively educate the public about AD/HD and related disorders. The published science states that AD/HD is a neurobiological disorder, a biologically based disorder of the brain. Go to the National Resource Center on AD/HD Web site to see the CHADD professional advisory board consensus statements summarizing the published science on AD/HD.

Last week, the NAMI Multicultural Action Center shared a February 23 Chicago Tribune article reporting the following incident. A minister had been talking with God and he told a member of his church, who said that she had depression, that she was cursed due to her sin. The good reverend advised the woman to stop taking her medications and pray for forgiveness. She complied, and soon thereafter threw herself down a flight of stairs in an effort to commit suicide.

A day or two later, we received an e-mail from a distressed CHADD member. She and her husband had attended a Christian marriage enrichment weekend and reported that the one booklet resource available to all conference attendees described AD/HD as a "spiritual problem," meaning a sin. CHADD will write the conference organizers and attempt to begin a dialogue.

CHADD has developed and will be expanding our outreach efforts to better inform faith communities about the science of AD/HD. And we are attempting to better understand the importance of faith for some people in dealing with their AD/HD. Several CHADD community forums have included faith communities in the presentations. At last year's CHADD annual conference, we offered our first session on natural supports, including the potential role of faith for some families with AD/HD. Faith communities and CHADD have as our shared goal the promotion of healthy individuals and families. There is much we can do to enhance dialogue and overcome artificial barriers to accessing science-based assistance. A social movement supporting individuals with AD/HD not only advocates legal protections and government assistance when warranted, but also puts in place peer and community supports, including nonprofessional natural supports.

There are resources to assist persons with mental disorders in communities of faith. These include (a program of the National Alliance on Mental Illness); (a listing of churches with special programs for persons with mental disorders through the Key Ministry Foundation); (another program that lists churches with special programs through the Pathways to Promise program); and (the National Council of Churches, which produced a video, “Shadow Voices: Funding Hope in Mental Illness”).

Challenge: Avoiding Conflict of Interest
CHADD board of directors' policy stresses that CHADD does not endorse services, publications, medications, treatments, or professionals. We clearly state this in ATTENTION!® magazine and on our Web site. To diversify our revenue and to allow access to community resources without endorsing, CHADD allows paid advertisements in our magazine and on our Web site. National volunteers sign conflict of interest avoidance statements.

Many of us are vulnerable to non-scientific claims as we search for assistance. During the past year, several situations have arisen with individual CHADD chapter leaders. CHADD chapter leaders are required to sign conflict of interest avoidance statements whereby they will not use CHADD chapter meetings or lists of CHADD members to advertise and promote their services or products. Almost all CHADD chapter leaders are volunteers whose motivation is to provide a community resource to persons with AD/HD and related disorders, without personal gain. Their motivation is what makes America great: uncompensated voluntary work to organize and run a community resource for persons in need. For those of us at the national level—both paid staff and uncompensated volunteers—this is an inspirational and motivating force in our daily lives, role-model volunteers helping others. We apologize when a few individuals misuse their position of assistance to sell products and services. CHADD members and CHADD leaders take possible conflicts of interest very seriously.

No CEO Blog Next Week
My son has a break from school and he and I are off to our very first spring baseball training games in Florida. Every parent and child needs some areas of common interest to better bond. Baseball is one of those areas for Andrew and me.


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