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My Kid Can See a Shrink without My Permission?!

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: The scenarios are tragic and heartbreaking. Imagine this: A middle schooler is being bullied at school because of his emerging sexual orientation, but he can't tell his parents because their religious beliefs may make them punish him more. And he can't talk to a counselor without his parents' consent. Or this: A 12-year-old girl is being sexually molested by her mom's boyfriend and her mother is both blinded by her love for the perpetrator and financially dependent on him. And the girl can't breathe a word of the crime to her school psychologist without getting her mom to agree. Or this: A child of drug-addicted parents runs away and becomes homeless. At 14, after living on the street for two years, his life is so dismal that he contemplates suicide. A social services agency finds him and wants to intervene. But they can't until they track down the deadbeat parents and get their permission.

kid and psychiatrist
Thanks to a new law in California that goes into effect on January 1st, 2011, all of these minors will now be able to get help without a nod from their moms and dads. According to the new law, minors 12 and over will be able to get mental health services without parental consent. In the past, this freedom was only awarded to children who were determined to be victims of parental child abuse. The author of the bill made a clear case that the old law discriminated against some kids, including gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender youth, youth from immigrant families, homeless youth and youth from cultural backgrounds that do not believe in mental health services. 

As a doctor of psychology, I continually emphasize that the key to youth mental health is early intervention. It is crucial that adolescents get talk-therapy before their symptoms include drug abuse or attempted suicide. And, in case you're wondering, the law does not allow minors to get electroshock or drug therapy without parental consent. For any parents who are worrying about their eroding parental rights, I remind you that the way to ensure that your kids "keep you in the loop" is to keep the door of communication open when they are young. Don't be afraid to talk about whatever your children bring up, whether it be drug use, crime or sexuality, and be prepared to seek help together when you don't have all the answers. 

Youth mental health is in the spotlight this month for another reason as well, thanks to Los Angeles Laker Ron Artest. Last spring, I silently did the touchdown cheer when Artest, after helping the Lakers win the NBA Championship, minutes later thanked his psychotherapist on national television. Then, last month, he announced on CNN's "Larry King Live" that he would auction his priceless championship ring off to charity to benefit youth mental health

Artest has come a long way since 2003, when ESPN Magazine called him "The Scariest Man in Basketball." His violent outbursts were legendary, and included attacking a fan who had thrown a cup at him during a game. These days, the NBA champion -- a former child of divorce, domestic violence and tragic sibling death -- sits across from Larry King unashamed to talk about his mental health. He explained that he has been the beneficiary of anger management therapy, marital therapy and even parenting classes. And he swears it all worked for him. 

His website crashed during the show as people flocked to the Internet to pledge as little as two dollars per ticket to earn the chance to win Artest's championship ring. (I personally hope that whoever wins it does the classy thing of returning it to Artest.) The lottery takes place on Christmas Day, and Artest hopes that millions will be raised to bring free or subsidized health care to youth who are suffering emotionally. You can enter by clicking here

And the new law in California will make it so much easier for suffering children to get the help they deserve. Kudos to California. And three cheers for Ron Artest!

next: So Long, Sodium
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Eric Potter MD November 11, 2010, 8:26 AM

At first, I was hopeful that this article would highlight the absurdity of the attack on parental rights which is growing in our nation. Instead, I am very dissappointed to hear the same rhetoric from those who proclaim the great need for children to be protected by the government. The most egregious examples are set on a pedestal for all to gawk at while completely ignoring the potential harm that may result from children receiving counsel in direct contradiction to their family’s beliefs. Children are trained to distrust their parents instructions.

For anyone who believes that the government or its experts will “care” for our children, you are sadly mistaken. Pediatricians and social workers don’t get the 2am call for the emergency from their teen, parents do. How sad when parents find out that their child has been receiving poor counsel without their knowledge. The parents should be kept in the loop, even if they have not done the best job of communicating. Don’t harm 100% of families for the sake of a small percentage.

Eric Potter MD

Alexis November 11, 2010, 12:34 PM

To Eric Potter, M.D.

The fact that adolescents aren’t given the benefit of even speaking to the school counselor is an affront to the rights of the only people we are all supposed to care about: the children. Guidance counselors often end up hearing the problems of their charges. There is no significant difference. Parents do not have the right to monitor what their children are thinking, and the ability for children to seek out help from a responsible adult figure is their right over their body. And, for once, this right means that they will be seeking help for themselves instead of destroying their lives.

My best friends father believed that bipolarism was a fake disorder. So when her mother got her on medication, he flushed her drugs nearly a month and a half into her use of the drugs. She didn’t get out of bed for two weeks.

What if your child killed themselves because they didn’t feel comfortable confiding in you and they had no where else to go? What if a parent didn’t believe in modern medicine at all and let their child die of leukemia while seeking the help of “God”?

Parent’s job is to take care of their children. If they fail, we take thier children away. If you continue to fail your children when it comes to their mental health, then the child should have a right to amend the issue.

Anonymous November 12, 2010, 5:05 AM

I volunteer for a year on a mental health hotline and I know that in my state (MD) there is a special phone number just for kids to call in on. They can call about anything that they need to talk about. I had to go to the local schools and pass out the hotline cards to the school counselors so they could pass them out to all the students. I know for a fact that the school counselor at my children school didn’t do it b/c I also volunteered at their school every week to fill the weekly folder to go home and these cards never made it to the classrooms so they could go home with the students. At the end of the school year, the cards were still sitting on the counselor desk. What a shame.

Senior Picture Makeup And Hair January 6, 2011, 2:54 PM

Sometimes people are layered like that. There’s something totally different underneath than what’s on the surface. But sometimes, there’s a third, even deeper level, and that one is the same as the top surface one. Like with pie.

Byron M. Swann February 12, 2011, 3:36 PM

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106 107 April 9, 2011, 5:20 AM

I don’t agree with it, kudos to you for having the initiave to throw it up

106 107 April 9, 2011, 7:42 PM

I don’t agree with it, thanks are in order for making the effort to write it down

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