Allies of Mental Health: The Centers
Ever since she was a child, mental health has been a part of Charlotte Lockhart’s life. Her mother was a psychiatric nurse at the local Veteran’s Affairs center. She witnessed her mother’s care, passion and support for her patients, and decided then that one day, she wanted to do the same.
Today, Lockhart serves as the program manager of the Centers for Youth and Families’ Elizabeth Mitchell Children’s Center, surrounded by adolescents in need of some of the same graceful care as her mother’s patients so many years ago.
“Many of the children in our program are victims of neglect due to parental substance abuse,” she says. “Intervening early in these children’s lives and providing them with a full array of wraparound services is critical to breaking the cycle. Begin by asking children who are acting out emotionally, ‘What happened to you,’ not, ‘What is wrong with you?’”
During her career, she is proud of how the conversations surrounding mental health have evolved and some of the stigmas have diminished.
“I think we are now more aware of how complex the issues surrounding mental illness are — that there are more variables involved than just the brain,” she says. “When I first began working as a psychiatric nurse in the residential setting in the 1990s, the kids we cared for had obvious behavioral/mental health problems, but we didn’t necessarily understand or address all their other barriers. Today, we recognize that the kids in our care not only have mental health problems but are also facing social, educational and family problems. Today, kids are fighting bigger battles which is why it’s important to use a multidisciplinary approach to treat the whole child and family.”
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