Supporting our children’s mental health

May 3, 2022

May 7th is a special day for me. Not only is it my firstborn’s birthday, it is also National Child and Youth Mental Health Day. Embedded in this day is a constant self-reminder about why I am so deeply committed to the well-being of children – because they are our future and their well-being will shape the trajectory of our world.

When I became a mother, I realized that our children are mirrors, reflecting a deep seeded need to heal any childhood trauma of our own. Now commonly referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s), this can include anything from a traumatic event such as abuse or neglect to aspects of a child’s environment that impact their sense of safety or stability. Brain science tells us that ACEs create toxic levels of stress which affect the immediate, long-term, and intergenerational mental and physical health of children and youth. Neuroscience reminds us that the vulnerability we face in childhood has lifelong impacts, manifesting in disease patterns, relationship problems, and affecting morbidity in adulthood. The good news though is that brain science also tells us that the impact of ACEs can be mitigated and a child’s resiliency can be enhanced.Mother%20holding%20her%20two%20children%20

Parental separation is one of the top 10 ACEs which is why I am thrilled at the opportunity to bring doctors and lawyers together for the first time to support families, to support impacted children, and to find solutions to lessen the toxic stress put on children from high-conflict parental separations and divorce. This in an effort to break down our professional silos and collaborate on this important issue while also raising awareness about ACEs – because doctors’ patients are lawyers’ clients and vice versa. And because both groups care very deeply about the well-being of the families we support.

My own personal journey through both the healthcare and family law systems has illuminated the flaws, and confirmed the realities of two systems in desperate need of reform. They are not equipped to manage the fragility of our minds or our health, nor to protect us – rather they are doing the exact opposite. Their complexities alone implicate toxic stress. They operate in an archaic reactive fashion and neither aligns with our needs. They are in need of their own deep healing.

This focus on family well-being and the impact on children of high-conflict separation and divorce is particularly important given the rise in the divorce rates due to COVID-19. It’s why this National Child and Youth Mental Health Day, Doctors of BC and the Law Society of BC, in collaboration with Access to Justice BC, are joining forces on this project. And as part of this project, these partners are co-hosting two online events called “Working together for families” – a collaborative approach to serving families experiencing toxic stress as a result of separation and divorce. I encourage all of you to join us and share your thoughts.

It is my own lived experience, along with many children and families’, that I am compelled to stand for change. The status quo cannot continue. Together we can conceive possibilities of a better way forward. Together we can help break the pattern of ACEs and help support the mental well-being of our future generation.

- Dr Ramneek Dosanjh

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