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Recently I saw a chart that I found absolutely staggering.  It presents the differential cost to Medicaid for treating people for common physical illness if they have a co-morbid (occurring at the same time) mental illness and/or addiction.  Here’s a copy:

 

Wow.  Adding a mental illness on top of a physical illness results in triple the cost to insurance to provide treatment.  Plus, odds are pretty good that there is also significantly more lost productivity (read — days of work missed etc) for folks who fall into the second column.

So why does this matter?  Well, at a policy level it sure seems clear that providing quality and accessible behavioral health care should be a priority to insurers — instead of being a benefit that they nickel and dime both the people they insure and the clinicians accepting their insurance.

In addition, to me the data paints a very clear picture of why, even if you have great insurance, therapy is such an important investment.  As I was thinking about this data, it seems to me that under the cost figures is the implication that keeping yourself mentally strong, happy, and stable is a very good way to keep yourself out of the doctors office — especially if you are also managing any kind of chronic physical ailment.

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Martin Seligman, the inspiration behind the positive psychology movement, identified 3 thought styles that are intimately connected to how susceptible one is to depression.

These are personalization, permanence and pervasiveness.

I recently put together this little video clip about personalization.  Hope it’s helpful.

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Here in Colorado, for the most part, kids are all back to school and for many parents there is finally a bit more space to breath and think about what comes next.

 

Below is a quick Family Mental Health and General Growth and Happiness Checklist (long winded name for a short checklist) I’ve found helpful to use each year as everyone is settling in.

For each member of your family, including yourself, ask the following questions.

1)  What are a few of this person’s strengths?

2)  What activities, hobbies, jobs etc are a regular part of this person’s life and help to bring out their strengths?

3) What things are hardest for this person?  What am I most worried about for this person?

4)  What is one thing I can add to my/our regular routine to help with my answers to #3?  Who else (teacher, professional counselor, relative, friend) might be helpful with my answer to #3?

5)  What little voices do I have about things related to this person?   In other words, what are things I’m concerned about and might be tempted to brush aside?

6)  How will I know when it’s time to address those “little voice concerns” head on?

While it is simple checklist, the impact of taking a few moments to reflect on these can make a HUGE difference for the year.

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I just got back from a conference.  The conference was pretty unremarkable.  The article in Southwest airline’s inflight magazine however, was first-rate.  Find the article here.

Camp Do It Yourself.  Here’s the idea.  Find a first-rate, energetic, spunky high school or college student.  Find a handful of kids your kids like.  Put sitter and kids together for a summer of low-key, creativity, informal sports, art theater and lots of relaxed create-your-own-fun.

As I was feeling the pressure to add this camp and that activity to the plate for our kids for this summer, I found this article so refreshing.    Let summer be summer.  A time to move at a slower pace.  A time to learn how to entertain oneself instead of to be entertained.  A time to lie in a hammock curled up with a book and nowhere to race off too.

Now that is a true summer gift for any child.  And for us adults too!

The article also got me thinking about how easy it is to assume that a professional is the best person when you need help for your kids.  Actually, often DIY therapy, tutoring etc also works great.  Here’s the basic idea.

Therapy/Tutoring Do It Yourself

1.  You, the parent find a professional to coach you and your wonderful high school or college student “coach” about how to work with your kid.  Schedule a first meeting with the three of you to create a plan for what your “coach” will do with your child.

2.  You watch out of the corner of your eye while your kid and “coach” work together.  Take notes to review with your professional.

3.  You and the “coach” follow-up with the professional.

4.  Repeat as many times as need :)!

You save money.  Your child gets more services from someone who is likely to be more on their level and way more fun.  Your “coach” gets a fabulous learning experience.  Everyone wins.

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When I used to teach middle school, springtime may have meant flower blooming and sun shining.  And, it also brought the terror of parent-teacher conferences.  I’m not sure how I escaped graduate school without even one word of advice on how to keep discussions with parents running smoothly.  Likewise, these tips can help to build smoother consultations with parents about their children’s treatment.

Here are a few tips I wish someone had shared with me!

Have a plan– Share the plan. It helps to have a plan of how you want to use your time together, to share that plan at the beginning of the conference and to use a clock to  help you stick to that plan.  “Hi Mr. and Mrs. Adams.  It’s such a pleasure to meet with you today.  We have a 15 minute conference slot scheduled.  What I’d like to do is take about half that time to hear from you how the year has gone, then I would like to look together at a few pieces of Amy’s work.  I’ll send you home with a sheet about what we’ve covered in class this year and a folder of other work she has done.”  Then use the clock to stick to this plan.  Tempting as it is to let timing be a bit lax, parents appreciate when conference start and stop on time.

Be a HOW/WHAT detective. I used to think that the most important part of a conference was to prove how much I knew about each child.  I thought a conference meant I needed to prove just how professional and on top of things I  was.

In fact, conferences are a unique time to ask questions of parents and to help them feel like they are a part of the team.  Placing the focus more on understanding how the parents see things can be eye-opening as well as incredibly soothing for parents.  “What has been best about this year from your perspective?”  “How do you feel about Sally’s math skills?  “What will Jonah be doing this summer?”  Somehow it’s almost more reasurring as a parent to be asked the right questions then to be given the right answers.  Especially, if the right questions are followed with a nice clean work portfolio to bring home and review.

Be a YES . . . AND AT THE SAME TIME Ninja master. Your job, no matter how off-the-wall, annoying or otherwise opposed to how you see things a parental perspective may be, when talking with parents your job is to always start by figuring out how they are correct– and then to go on to really chew on what what you’re learning from them.  “YES, Mrs. Smith, I can totally see how it seems that Andy gets lost.  There are lots of kids in our classroom, and I do have to rely on the kids to work independently.  He also is such a sweet and calm child, he really never draws attention to himself.”   Then, once a parent feels you really get their concerns, the door is open to add yours.  “AND, AT THE SAME TIME one of the most important skills at this grade level is for children to begin to do much more independent work.  I actually try very hard to step back and give the kids quite a bit of independent space so they can begin to learn how to organize their work on their own.”

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