By Rebecca Wydysh, President of the Board of Directors at the Mental Health Association in Niagara County.
People often ask me why I decided to join the MHA Board of Directors. I don’t work in the mental health field, or any medical field, for that matter. My interest is much more personal and first hand…
In 2008, my daughter was your average third grader. She had lots of friends, received great grades and all her teachers said she was “a pleasure to have in class”. Virtually out of nowhere, things changed. She started adamantly and ferociously refusing to go to school, with no real reason or explanation. She simply DID NOT and WOULD NOT go! And there was no making her…she would act out emotionally and physically, to the point it would have been dangerous for her (and me), if forced.
While the school staff was extremely supportive, and tried to help in any way they could, it was clear there was no real program in place to help us. We were given several suggestions and even ended up staying overnight at a hospital emergency wing, where we were ultimately told “good luck” and released. We spent several frustrating days contacting our own doctors, insurance company, friends and family, just trying to get her the immediate help she needed. Many counselors had a wait of several weeks or a month just to get a first appointment. We felt alone and useless to help our daughter.
After several months of counseling attempts, a diagnosis of “Generalized Anxiety and School Refusal”, in-patient treatment, and home schooling, she was finally able to return to class. Most of this might have been avoided if we had just had a better support system and treatment plan from the start. It was a difficult few years of ups and downs, but I’m happy to say that she has grown so much (in age and wisdom) and now has very little trouble going to school every day.
During our journey, I saw just how frustrating it can be to navigate the mental health system, especially where children are concerned, and I wish I had known more about the MHA and the programs we offer. I had just started my position as Deputy Commissioner of Jurors in Niagara County with the New York State Unified Court System and was lucky to have very supportive employers and co-workers. I cannot imagine how much more difficult, or even impossible, it would be for a parent dealing with their own mental health diagnosis during that type of crisis.
It was shortly after this experience, in 2009, that I was invited to join the Board of Directors. I joined without hesitation, in the hope of helping in any way that I can, big or small, to support other children in our community to receive the care they need, while also supporting the parents that love them.
I am honored to be the current Board President at MHA in Niagara Counyt, and will do all I can to raise awareness for the organization and further the crucial programs our staff works so hard every day to develop and expand. ◊
Visit www.mhanc.com to learn more