April 2015

Mental health professionals are understaffed

It’s frustrating as a provider of mental health services to continuously hear and to be judged with generic comments, such as the “system is broken.” Other remarks include, “The system is fragmented.”

The system is not bad, broken or fragmented. It is overwhelmed!

If we had 100 students occupying a school building built and staffed for 50 children, we would not say the “school is bad” or the education “system is broken.”

We would say, “There are more children than we can serve.”

So what is the difference when we discuss mental health services?

Why are the services and providers judged as inept?

The difference is simply this:

  • Education is cool to support.
  • Eradicating hunger is morally fulfilling.
  • Eliminating drug cartels is the right thing to do.
  • Saving green space is politically correct.

But mental illness is not warm or fuzzy. It doesn’t make for cute T-shirts.

Mental illness and mental health — especially in Florida — are still not cool!

We blame the victims and their families. And we do not acknowledge mental health as a necessary focus of our future.

I urge Jacksonville to maintain this newly recognized course.

We know approximately 1 in 5 children in Duval County have a mental health disorder.

And that proportion increases to 46 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds!

That’s almost half of our teenagers experiencing mental health problems.

That’s devastating!

If that high percentage represented a physical health problem, we would declare an epidemic.

This is an epidemic.

It must be addressed at every legislative meeting, every family event, every church social, every PTA meeting and every doctor’s visit.

Reach out to your legislators — not only during this session but throughout the year. Help them to realize the impact of mental illness.

Make this the Year for Mental Health!

Theresa Rulien, CEO, Child Guidance Center,