Akpan is a toddler from Nigeria. His parents adore their little champ, even though he’s unable to call them “mummy” or “daddy.” They know he will speak someday, but when? They watch him struggle daily to mutter a sweet word. He can’t run to give his parents a hug. When will their child speak and walk? Who will help and what can we do to help him?
Summer is here –- at last -– and for many people, thoughts turn to fun family getaways, sitting out by the pool or on the beach and sweet treats like ice cream or water ice to cool us down. But for people who are living on the street, these options of summer escapes aren’t so readily accessible. Hundreds of people experience periods of street homelessness in Philadelphia, using street corners, transit hubs and parks as shelter. Heavily-traveled areas, particularly in and around Center City, reveal the faces of this sad reality. And while being homeless can be devastating enough for an individual, the problem is only compounded for those who are also living with an untreated mental illness, addiction, or both.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and as we celebrate recovery, we strive to increase awareness and work to end stigma around mental health. Through the offering of comprehensive services, resources, and access to behavioral healthcare, we have a strong commitment to helping youth, adults, and families in greatest need, especially as the rates of reported mental health challenges continue to rise, especially among our youth. Last week was National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and now, more than ever, it’s critical that we all take some time to pay attention to the emotional health and well-being of our children.
Over the years, Philadelphia has implemented a number of approaches to strengthen local communities. In particular, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) has implemented multiple programs that reach our neighborhoods— some examples include Mental Health First Aid, Faith and Spiritual Affairs, and Healing Hurt People.