Kate Middleton is right to say most parents wouldn't hesitate to call their child's doctor if he or she had a fever. Yet when it comes to mental health issues, "some children are tackling tough times without the support that can help them because the adults in their life are scared to ask."
The Duchess of Cambridge made this remark during a message of support for a charity she is passionate about, the Anna Freud Centre, according to People magazine. In a new series of podcasts called Child in Mind, the princess hopes to do her part to dispel the undeniable stigma surrounding mental illness.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 20 percent of kids will suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in their lives. That's a lot. Yet as Middleton pointed out, a third of adults "say they would be embarrassed to seek help for their child's mental health." I have to believe that has a lot to do with the shame parents might feel about their own struggles with mental illness.
But I couldn't agree with the eloquent mom-of-two more when she said at the Child in Mind launch, "It doesn't need to be like this. With the right help, children have a good chance of overcoming their issues while they are still young, and can have the bright future they deserve."
"Knowing this, both William and I feel very strongly that we wouldn't hesitate to get expert support for George and Charlotte if they need it," she added.
I have no doubt her words will encourage many other parents to do the same if their children are struggling. Still, there is a huge divide among ethnic groups in terms of who is seeking help in this arena. Consider a new study that found black and Hispanic youths are only half as likely to get help for a mental health problem as white children.
The unfortunate outcome of this disparity is, as study author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler explained, "Minority kids don't get help when they're in trouble. Instead they get expelled or jailed. But punishing people for mental illness or addiction is both inhumane and ineffective. The lack of care for minority youth is the real crime."
Here's hoping both Middleton's efforts, and those of researchers who examine the issue of mental health, will help to end the shame surrounding what is clearly a very big problem facing many, many families.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.