Earlier this year, Nationwide Children’s Hospital released a first-of-its-kind study on how pediatric and adolescent mental health crises impact the workforce. The answer is: Hard. Very hard.
The study is titled “The Great Collide: The Impact of Children’s Mental Health on the Workforce.” Funded by the Nationwide Foundation, it is part of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s On Our Sleeves movement.
It found that among working parents:
- 53 percent have missed work at least once a month to deal with a child’s mental health issues.
- 54 percent have interrupted their work to answer communication about their child’s mental health situation during work hours.
- 85 percent think it’s a good idea to talk about their children’s mental health issues, but few have done it.
- Up to 50 percent are thinking about their children’s mental health while at work.
The study also found that working parents under age 40 are more concerned about their children’s mental health and more likely to select jobs offering benefits that give them access to mental health services.
If these numbers seem high to you, it’s because of the secrecy involved in dealing with a child’s mental illness. You don’t call in because your child is sick; instead you claim to be sick yourself. I know this from experience.
During the 1990s, I had a young child with mental health issues. My boss once denied me a raise specifically because of the number of phone calls that I received from my child’s school. I frequently had to go get my child at school due to behavioral problems. (My co-workers joked that I should put a courier slip in her hair on a barrette, so the courier could bring her to the office when needed. That way I wouldn’t have to leave.) I held my breath until 2:30 p.m. when school was out every work day. And that was before we had to start homeschooling for the child’s safety from bullying.
Nationwide is adding resources for parents on OnOurSleeves.org as well as rolling out a program for employers soon. Parents need this help. Therapists rarely have time to help parents with all the caregiving issues around having a child with a mental illness. Yet it’s so, so common.