The Mental Health Journey of a Mother and Daughter

Mental health disorders affect as many as 1 in 5 U.S. children each year. The vast majority of mental health problems begin in adolescence, with depression being the most common. Many young people who need mental health treatment do not receive it. Sadly, even if mental health problems are identified, children often face challenges with stigma.

We are pleased to feature mother and daughter guest authors, Olga and Magaly. When Magaly was 11, her mother found suicide plans on her phone. Six years later, they continue to navigate the challenges of Magaly’s diagnosis of depression and psychosis. Their journey touches upon the importance of early identification, access to care and the struggles for support.

Here is their story.

Raising a daughter with depression and psychosis
Olga is a Family Resource Specialist at Support for Families in San Francisco.

Magaly was 11 years old when she planned to kill herself. I had noticed cuts on her arm for some time but she always told me they were scratches from falling. It wasn’t until the cuts went from a criss-cross to deep straight lines that I knew something was wrong. I looked through her phone and found detailed plans, ranging from which friend would get her belongings to notes saying goodbye to loved ones. She left in the middle of school that day, walking around for hours, looking for a highway to jump off. The earliest doctor’s appointment available was for the following Monday, which was extremely frustrating. I spent that weekend watching Magaly’s every move, but also careful not to alarm or scare her. I didn’t want her to run away.

On that Monday, Magaly was diagnosed with major depression and psychosis. She finally told us about the strong voices inside her head. She said she had been hearing them for as long as she could remember. It was then that I realized why, as a baby, Magaly would cry any time she was left alone. She once turned purple from crying when I left her momentarily to use the restroom. It was the voices that were scaring her.

Sending your child to a behavioral health center is not the same as to a regular hospital. That same day they put Magaly in the ambulance for transport and I was not allowed to ride with her. It was a state policy. Parents are only allowed to see their child during visiting hours, the rest of the time the doctors just call you with updates or requests for medication approval. I remember Magaly calling me from the center, scared and begging to come home. “Mom this is my fault, I’ll try to behave, please, I’ll do anything to come home,” she pleaded. What else could I tell her except to hang in there and that I would come during the next visiting hours.

For Magaly, every day feels like she is carrying a big stone on her back. I know this is why it’s not easy for her to do the simple everyday things like get out of bed, shower, and go to school. She always has this extra weight with her. This is something she will struggle with for the rest of her life.

There is a stigma around mental health that often feels like blame for you and your child. From the policies that dictate when a parent can be with their child during treatment to the way we question parents of children with mental illness, the entire experience can be extremely isolating. What parents need is support. From a peer-to-peer perspective, it is helpful to talk with parents about how to manage the stress. When we meet others who are surviving it gives the rest of us hope. From caregivers, parents need a safe place where their concerns are heard, not criticized. From our health care system, we must demand mental health services for our children. We cannot wait until they are planning suicide to intervene and we must find ways to care for our children beyond being stabilized in a hospital.

Magaly turns 18 in June, and with that comes the usual mother-daughter challenges. You know everything when you’re 18, right? She doesn’t trust me as much. Sometimes she won’t tell me how she’s feeling because she knows I’ll take action. These days I’m trying to step back more and let Magaly learn to ask for help on her own. I know she will be the best advocate for herself and other children just like her.

Living with depression and psychosis
Magaly, 17, is from San Francisco. She is a student at Galileo Academy of Science and Technology and a published poet.

The voices in my head are weird. Right now, there are five of them, two boys and three girls. The voices can be like whispers; those are constant. It sounds like a hissing noise, like a window that is open a crack on a windy day. The voices can also be clear, speaking distinct phrases. I’ll see a tree and the voices will say, “You can hang yourself from that tree.” My inner monologue is louder but sometimes the voices can defeat it. When that happens, I have to yell out loud to hear myself.

When I was 11, my mom found my suicide plans on my phone. I had done internet research beforehand and made three options for myself: 1. Take pills, 2. Get run over, 3. Slit wrists. When I was evaluated at the Children’s Crisis Center, they kept asking me how many times I had thought about killing myself, and how many times I had felt depressed. I remember staring at a plastic water bottle and thinking about why they make water bottles, who came up with that idea. I completely disassociated from what was happening; they were sending me to a hospital and I just wanted to ignore everyone. I was diagnosed with major depression, psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The hospital felt like a prison. Nobody was allowed to wear shoes with laces or hoodies with strings. The walls were painted a light yellow and the windows were covered with curtains held back with Velcro. I felt trapped and terrified. When I called my mom she told me, “We didn’t want to send you there. It probably doesn’t look like a prison.” But she wasn’t there, she didn’t know.

I’m not sure when I started to hear the voices. My mom told me I couldn’t be left alone when I was a baby. I remember having panic attacks and now I realize it’s the voices. When I really think about it, I actually have no memories of not being depressed, it’s always been there. Sometimes when people ask how I’m doing, I want to lie and say I’m fine. If I told people how I really feel, they would send me to a hospital.

Sometimes I consider suicide for the stupidest reasons. The voices will say, “You gotta do this, you gotta do this now.” I’ll feel it for a minute, maybe an hour, sometimes for a whole day. That’s when I use my inner monologue to remind me why I need to live. I think of my sister and how much she needs me. I think of Kasia, my mentor from the Big Sister, Big Brother program. They are rocks. Support from friends, school and home all help. These days I feel depressed but in a different way, it’s not numb like before, I can feel other things at the same time. That’s good because it means I haven’t gone the other way, the point of no return.

Special thanks to Olga and Magaly for sharing their story.

Recently Released Data

We are continuously updating our data. Click the links below to see the latest:

Health Insurance Coverage (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More), by Age Group

Health Insurance Coverage (Regions of 10,000 Residents or More), by Age Group

Medicaid (Medi-Cal) or CHIP Coverage, by City, School District and County (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)

Receipt of Care Within a Medical Home (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More) [NEW]

School Health Centers

School Provides Adequate Health Services (Staff Reported)

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Three Mental Health Bills for California Children

Mental Health Awareness month is a time to note that the emotional health of children is an integral part of overall health, as physical and mental health are intricately linked. Mental disorders affect as many as 1 in 5 U.S. children each year and are some of the most costly conditions to treat – mental health problems among young people under age 24 cost the U.S. an estimated $247 billion annually. Unfortunately, the majority of young people who need mental health treatment do not receive it, and mental health problems in childhood often have negative effects in adulthood.

The California Legislature has proposed several bills that address children’s mental health, from increased training and peer supports to early prevention and funding parity. Three current bills worth noting:

SB 906: Medi-Cal: mental health services: peer support specialist certification
This bill establishes a statewide peer support specialist certification program for health providers. The peer support specialist would have the experience and the formal training to promote mind-body recovery for adults or transition-age youth.

SB 1019: Youth mental health and substance use disorder services
This bill creates financial parity for children’s mental health and adult mental health funding. It requires at least half of all funds allocated to the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission under the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act of 2013 be used to expand mental health services for minors.

AB 2686: Early identification of pupil mental health issues: in-service training for certificated employees and classified staff
This bill requires each school district, county office of education, and charter school to provide in-service training to certificated employees and classified staff who provide instruction to or have regular personal contact with pupils in K-12th grades on the early identification of pupil mental health issues.

Kidsdata is a source for policy options that could promote children’s emotional health.

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How to View Data by School District

Curious to know how children’s health differs by school district? Data such as emotional health, school attendance and discipline, and drug use are available at the school district level. It’s just three easy steps from the left side of the visualization:

1. Click the “+” sign next to your county of choice

2. Click the “+” sign next to “School Districts” and all available school districts will appear

3. Select your district of interest

Data in Action

The Kidsdata team will be at the California School-Based Health Conference on Friday, May 18, in Sacramento, CA. The event brings together providers, educators, advocates, and other leaders in the school-based health care movement across the state. Be sure to stop by our booth to say hello!

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Rate of Depression is Double for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Youth

Depression-Related Feelings Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Youth, 2013-2015

An alarming 61% of youth who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual have felt depressed in the previous year in contrast to 29% of their peers who identify as straight. These students, who are in grades 7th, 9th, or 11th grade or are in non-traditional programs, felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more that they stopped doing their usual activities.

Disparities among youth who experience depression-related feelings vary widely across student groups. Students with particularly high percentages of depression-related feelings include those in non-traditional schools, those with low levels of school connectedness, those whose parents did not graduate from high school, and American Indian/Alaskan Native or Hispanic students.

The tables below call attention to disparities among groups of students in California. Use the links to see additional data by county and school district.

Depression-Related Feelings Among Student Groups, 2013-2015

By grade level »

By level of school connectedness »

By parent education level »

By race/ethnicity »

This data release about emotional health is a part of Kidsdata’s Youth in Schools series. In partnership with WestEd, we are featuring data from the California Department of Education’s California Healthy Kids Survey.

Data in Action

The Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing featured how to overcome cultural barriers to mental health care access at its Adolescent Mental Wellness conference.

The Kidsdata team will present on chronic stress and emotional health among California’s youth at the California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth Conference.

Recently Released Data

We are continuously updating our data. Click the links below to see the latest:

Youth Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury

Suicidal Ideation (Student Reported), by Grade Level

Number of Youth Suicides, by Age

Youth Suicide Rate

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Updated Data Show Over A Quarter Million Public School Students Homeless

Homeless Public School Students, 2015-2016

Data on homeless children and youth in California are now available on Kidsdata. Over a quarter million, or 4.4% of public school students, were recorded as homeless at some point during the 2015-2016 school year. Most homeless students stayed with friends or relatives because of loss of housing (85%), and the remainder were in a temporary shelter, motel, or were unsheltered.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (Point-in-Time Count), Ages 0-17: 2017

Recording homeless students during the school year is one way to measure homelessness. A second way to measure homelessness is with a point-in-time (PIT) count which is held nationwide on one night in January each year. In 2017, 1,649 youth who were under age 18 were found homeless without a parent or guardian. Most were unsheltered, meaning that they were found in a place not ordinarily used for sleeping.

Federal agencies, researchers, and advocates agree that the homeless youth population remains largely hidden. Current methods to measure homelessness are presumed undercounts. However, the data that are available suggest this is a statewide issue.

Earlier this month we released data on childhood poverty. Homelessness can be one of the tragic consequences of poverty. Data revealing homelessness among youth and research about the impact of homelessness can help raise awareness and drive solutions to ending homelessness among youth.

Learn about addressing youth homelessness »

Data in Action

Kidsdata shared how to access and use homeless data by legislative district at the Youth Empowerment Summit hosted by the California Coalition for Youth in Sacramento on April 16. The next day, participants met with state legislators in support of SB 918, the Homeless Youth Act of 2018. Estimates of homeless students, based on data from the California Department of Education’s Coordinated School Health and Safety Office, are available for your legislative district here.

The California Homeless Youth Project uses data to enhance their “voices from the street” series.

Recently Released Data

Homeless Public School Students

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (Point-in-Time Count), by Age Group and Shelter Status

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California’s Child Poverty Rate Highest in Country

Kidsdata and Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) have partnered to bring you the latest data on poverty among California’s children. Poverty and inequitable distribution of resources are fundamental impediments to healthy and well children. Addressing poverty among all children must be a key part of programs and policies that aim to maximize health and well being.

Guest author, Caroline Danielson, who is a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, shares important findings about poverty in California:

Measuring Poverty

Poverty is high in California, and it has not improved as much as the growing economy might suggest it should. In fact, California’s poverty rate and child poverty rate are both the highest in the country, according to Census Bureau estimates from the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The California Poverty Measure (CPM), an ongoing collaboration between the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, is a state-specific, updated measure of the adequacy of the resources families have on hand to meet their basic needs. The CPM improves on official poverty statistics by accounting for sharply differing housing costs across counties and by incorporating major social safety net programs like the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), CalFresh food assistance, and CalWORKs cash assistance for low-income families with children.

Poverty in California

According to the CPM, 19.5% of Californians were poor as of 2015—that means 7.5 million people living below a basic needs threshold (on average less than $30,000 in total resources for a family of four). The poverty rate is higher for children at 22.8%, or over 2 million children in 2013-2015. Among counties with data, CPM poverty rates ranged from 11.8% in Placer County to over 28% in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties.

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Poverty Increase without Safety Net

Without resources from the social safety net, we estimate that an additional 1.3 million children, or 14.3%, would live in poverty based on data from 2013-2015. This translates into over one-third of children in poverty (37.1%). In other words, social safety net programs are doing critical work to mitigate poverty in the state.

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Deep Poverty

For children living in deep poverty (with family resources less than half of the poverty threshold), social safety net programs are even more consequential. We estimate 5.1% of children lived in deep poverty in 2013-2015, but that nearly three and one-half times that share would live in deep poverty absent resources from the social safety net (17.4%). Nonetheless, the vast majority of children in poverty live in families where at least one adult works (82.3%), and this share is high even for children in deep poverty (68.2%).

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Addressing Poverty

Taken together, these data suggest that solutions to child poverty in the state must take account the ways in which family employment and social safety net programs dovetail and the ways that they could be jointly improved. These data also drive home the need to address poverty as we take action for the well-being of the state’s children.

Learn more about addressing poverty »

Caroline Danielson is a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. Her research focuses on multiple dimensions of the social safety net, including its role in mitigating poverty, program access and enrollment, and the integration and governance of programs. The Public Policy Institute of California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research.

Kidsdata in Action

First 5’s 2018 Child Health, Education, and Care Summit, April 11-12.
Along with several of our partners, we will discuss the relationship between poverty and adversity. Also, we will share new data on adversity and introduce county-level dashboards on adversity over the life course. We hope to see you there!

Recently Released Data

We are continuously updating data. Click the links below to see the latest:

Family Income and Poverty

Children with Two or More Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported)

Children Who Are Resilient (Parent Reported)

Prevalence of Childhood Hardships (Maternal Retrospective)

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Youth in Action

Some of the best advocates for children’s health are engaged and empowered youth. Creating a positive cycle of health, from optimal physical and mental health to positive social behaviors and supportive relationships requires all of us, adults and youth alike, to be engaged citizens.

Adolescence is the stage in human development when individuals begin to clarify and articulate their own values and operationalize their roles in the larger world. Their uncertainty motivates them to question those around them. Thus, it is natural for youth to challenge the status quo, identify hypocrisy, and encourage all of us to improve and hold society to a high standard.

This past month we have seen youth across the country take ownership of their own safety. They are speaking up because they implicitly understand that health and well being can only be achieved when their communities are safe and when they have ready access to physical and emotional supports. We are inspired to watch this generation of advocates work to improve society and protect their health.

Kidsdata is a powerful tool for demanding action, it provides comprehensive data on how children and youth are faring and information on how we can contribute to improving their health and well being. As our youth raise their voices to make a better world, we should take time to listen and support them. They too, are demanding action.

Photo by Lorie Shaull/CC BY-SA 2.0

Updated Data

We are continuously updating data. Click the links below to see the latest:

School Attendance and Discipline

Children’s Emotional Health

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Enhance Your Data with the Legislative Boundary Overlay Tool

Visualizing data by legislative district helps identify areas of need and strengthens communication with your legislator. Kidsdata offers easy access to data for specific legislative districts on various topics. For all other topics where data are not broken down by districts, our legislative boundary overlay tool is a great option. Users can customize a map overlay by Assembly District, State Senate District, and U.S. Congressional District for a visual representation of district borders. Follow these three easy steps to take your map data to the next level!

1. Choose your data map of interest:

2. Click Legislative Boundaries. Select the type of district. If you’re not sure about your district, click “What’s my district?” for more information.

3. Customize the districts you would like to see on the map. You can select as many as you want, or, click “Check All” to view all districts.

Share your map with legislators, stakeholders, and advocates!

7th Grade Alcohol/Drug Use in Past Month, 2013-2015, in California State Assembly Districts Two and Four

Check out more helpful tips »

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New Data on Children with Special Health Care Needs

Children with Major Disabilities, by State Senate District, 2011-2015

Updated information on children with special health care needs, those who have a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional condition that requires more than routine health and related services, is now on Kidsdata. Discover the latest data on children with major disabilities by legislative district and by county, city and school district. Also, find special education enrollment by disability and race/ethnicity, the number of active California Children’s Services (CCS) enrollees by age group, and the percentage of insured and uninsured children who have major disabilities.

In California, nearly one in four families has a child with a special health care need, totaling over one million children. Additionally, over 280,000 children ages 0-17 years old had at least one major disability in 2011-2015. For state legislative districts around the Shasta/Cascade, High Sierra, and Gold Country regions, between 3.7% and 5.2% of children had major disabilities compared with under 3.7% in other districts during this period.

Children with special health care needs and their families face many challenges. For example, health care and other necessary support services generally are provided in an uncoordinated manner, and families are left to navigate the fragmented system on their own. For children of color, low-income families, and families living in rural areas, challenges are greater. Programs like CCS are crucial to helping children with special health care needs. Learn how the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health is improving the system of care for California children: lpfch.org/cshcn.

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Vaping More Common among Youth with Lower School Connectedness

Using E-Cigarettes At Least Seven Times in Lifetime, by Level of School Connectedness, 2013-2015

California youth with low levels of connectedness to their schools have higher rates of e-cigarette use than their more connected peers. Reporting in 2013-2015, 18% of students with low levels of school connectedness in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs had used e-cigarettes at least seven times—almost three times the estimate for youth with high levels of school connectedness (6%).

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found substantial evidence that e-cigarette use among youth increases the risk of transitioning to smoking conventional cigarettes. Data available on kidsdata.org show that e-cigarette use is more common than smoking: 14% of 11th graders in California had used e-cigarettes at least seven times compared to 7% who had smoked cigarettes. This pattern held across levels of school connectedness, grade levels, genders, race/ethnicities, and sexual orientation. Tobacco use or smoking in any form is highly addictive and unsafe, and the long term health risks require intervention at an early age to prevent uptake and escalation.

Efforts across the state are working to address this growing issue. The Tobacco Prevention Toolkit from Stanford School of Medicine is a resource for anyone who works with youth. It contains a set of modules focused on e-cigarettes and vapes, messages on nicotine addiction, information and resources concerning positive youth development, and school policies that provide information about school tobacco policies and tobacco control efforts. Also noteworthy, the California Department of Public Health continues to run a Still Blowing Smoke campaign with special attention to youth and e-cigarettes.

Kidsdata.org’s new indicators about e-cigarette use are among 75 updated indicators on alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use from the California Department of Education’s Healthy Kids Survey. In partnership with WestEd, we are working to feature data on the health and well-being of youth in schools.

Updated Data

We are always updating our data. Click the links below to see the latest:

Characteristics of Children with Special Needs

Active California Children’s Services (CCS) Enrollees, by Age Group

Children with Major Disabilities

Insured/Uninsured Children Who Have Major Disabilities

Special Education Enrollment

Deaths

all indicators

Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use

all indicators

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