Deciding to disclose a child's mental illness

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Deciding to disclose a child's mental illness

I think the first thing is to make sure you're involving the child in the discussion, because there are risks and benefits to disclosing this kind of information and withholding this kind of information. For instance, in schools because of the IDEA legislation, your child, even if they have a serious mental illness is entitled to a quality education that is tailored to their needs. So within schools, it strikes me as the idea it should be part of the conversation if you're trying to tailor an educational plan for your child. If your kid feels shame and anxiety about it, that's understandable and I usually encourage people to think about who they trust, who they can tell. People don't like to feel ashamed. People don't like to feel criticized. People don't want to be made fun of. And so this is what you have to weigh when you think about, "How do I manage this?" Another truth is as a society we're doing better with these social attitudes. So if you say to your coach, "I'm dealing with a little be of depression, I'm in therapy, I'm on medications, I'm working on this." Many people would be reassured by that acknowledgment. But these are all judgment calls and they have to involve the child because they are the people who have to live with the consequences of revealing this information. And many kids understandably want to keep it to themselves.

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Kenneth Duckworth, MD

Psychiatrist, Harvard Professor & Medical Director for NAMI

Ken Duckworth, MD, serves as the medical director for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He is triple board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Adult, Child and Adolescent, and Forensic Psychiatry and has extensive experience in the public health arena.

Dr. Duckworth is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard University Medical School, and has served as a board member of the American Association of Community Psychiatrists. Dr. Duckworth has held clinical and leadership positions in community mental health, school psychiatry and now also works as Associate Medical Director for Behavioral Health at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Prior to joining NAMI in 2003, Dr. Duckworth served as Acting Commissioner of Mental Health and the Medical Director for Department of Mental Health of Massachusetts, as a psychiatrist on a Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) team, and Medical Director of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center.

Dr. Duckworth attended the University of Michigan where he graduated with honors and Temple University School of Medicine where he was named to the medical honor society, AOA. While at Temple, he won awards for his work in psychiatry and neurology. He also has a family member living with mental illness.

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