Psychiatrist: Path to Mental Health Help Starts with Conversation

Being able to sit on the park bench with her two daughters is something Mary Scribner doesn’t take for granted.

Scribner’s now 22-year-old daughter Kayley was diagnosed with severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, as a toddler. As the years progressed, doctors added bipolar, schizophrenic, moderate mental retardation and brain seizures to the list.

“It's scary because everyone keeps saying, ‘Well, you do need to come to the realization you probably will have to give her up,’” Scribner said.

The doctors’ concern was that Kayley's violent outbursts could harm other kids or her mom.

“You go to the store, she would start having a meltdown,” Scribner said. “You just have to stop put everything down and leave and you would have people going like, ‘I’m glad she's not my child’ type stuff or ‘Can’t you control your child?’ because they didn’t understand.”

Psychiatrists say that stigma often prevents people who need help from getting it.

“It's so much easier to go to your neighbor and say, ‘Hey, do you have a pediatrician to recommend?’” Seanna Crosbie with Austin Child Guidance Center said. “There's still this stigma attached with mental health, so it's not common a parent would go to a neighbor and say, ‘Hey, do you know a therapist?’”

Without early intervention, bigger problems could come up down the line.

“Just like cancer or heart disease or anything like that, the sooner we get treatment in place for that child or for that adult for that matter, the more likely we will have positive outcomes we know we can achieve,” Lynn Hartje with Bluebonnet Trails said.

Scribner says that stigma was difficult to come to terms with.

“My parents were old school,” Scribner said. “You don’t air your dirty laundry. ‘Shh, don't let anyone know that you have a child that's not right.’”

What gives Scribner hope is how much times have changed. When Kayley entered high school, her disability was an open conversation.

“The teachers explained to them about her disabilities and then after that, it's like everyone wanted to help her. And I though, ‘Man, that is so awesome,’ you know, and how a lot of us adults could learn,” Scribner said.

Scribner's 19-year-old daughter Rachel finishes up her undergraduate degree this spring. She plans to spend next year conducting university-sponsored research on mental health, inspired by her sister's challenges.