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Behavioral health is vitally important.

I posted on the slaughter of kids and Black Americans a couple weeks ago; David Vittoria, Carisk’s Chief Behavioral Health Officer sent this in as a comment  – it is well worth your time. (lightly edited; highlights are mine. Carisk is an HSA consulting client

It’s time for action.

There are always “calls to action” after these kinds of horrific events, but they’ve fallen short. It’s time to rethink the role of behavioral healthcare in helping our young people when they are suffering. Our industry should be hyper-focused on caringly confronting this head on, bringing together really smart, insightful, compassionate, and committed people, so that we can do better for our kids and communities.

I think there are many factors that contribute to gun violence in America. I definitely don’t pretend to have solutions for them all. Yet as a behavioral healthcare leader, psychotherapist, dad, and someone who’s spent many years working with children and adolescents, I know our industry can show up more and better for at-risk kids before they commit acts of violence like we saw this week in Uvalde.

By the time I would encounter these teens in residential or inpatient psychiatric facilities, they were often so aggressive and disengaged, we couldn’t really help them, no matter how hard we tried.

They typically disrupt the treatment setting more than they commit to treatment. They are at a point where they won’t take medications and are non-compliant with outpatient programs. Then it’s too late. The system of care will continue to fail teens unless we intervene earlier where they are in a better position to be helped. We need to be able to intervene early on to build the empathy they have for themselves, so that we can, in turn, help them have to have more empathy for others. But it must be thought about and acted on so much sooner than our current system supports.

As a behavioral health industry, we need to go on the offense.

We need a lot more mental health resources and support to reach all teens. Flexible, outpatient and other interventions, with evidence-based, engaging content. Interventions that are focused on skills and tools that equip teens to tolerate stress better, meaningfully connect with people and their purpose more, and see the power of their real potential. I can tell you…this is largely missing in the current approach.

We need preventative approaches and early detection. We need all the things that exist in medical care. Just as endocrinologists and cardiologists focus on diet and exercise with patients at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, behavioral health should focus on giving teens the skills to develop empathy, tools to better understand their emotions, and practically-applicable ways to manage stressors in their relationships, especially at home and in school. We need to understand how critical, early, preventative attention and intervention can play a central role in saving lives. There are many more things that can be done so that a child/teen does not escalate to having the capacity to take another human life.

Will this work 100% of the time? No. 30% of the time? Maybe not. Is the problem a mental health problem more than a gun violence problem? That’s a convenient distraction. But if we go on the offense and focus our efforts as a mental health industry on lifting children up more, addressing their mental health needs earlier and better, and place the focus on information, education, support, and proper care, focused on empathy…we will have a come a long way.

Thank you David.

What does this mean for you?

Support behavioral health for all kids – especially yours and your kids’ friends. 

Personal note – we have three wonderful kids who are all employed (Yay!), have stable, loving relationships, and are contributing members of society. Without getting into details, this “outcome” was undoubtedly helped by early and often use of counseling and therapy, and intervention.

I’ve been on meds for panic attacks for 25 years and have been very open about that. The vast majority of behavioral health issues are absolutely solvable – but only if you own them.

10 thoughts on “Behavioral health is vitally important.”

  1. Joe your last paragraph personal note is truly on point. Too many times parents believe that they can handle all situations regarding their children. By the time a parent realizes that the children need help it is often too late. As a father of 4 remarkable children and 7 outstanding grandchildren I have found out that there are a lot of issues I am just at a loss. I have relied on outside professional help many times and am thankful I did. I learned early on that my capabilities are not always sufficient to handle a number of situations. Parents and teachers need to understand it is not a pox on them if they reach out for assistance nor does it condemn the children to a life of ridicule.

    1. Well said Todd – thanks for your observations and for sharing them.

      be well Joe

  2. “giving teens the skills to develop empathy, tools to better understand their emotions, and practically-applicable ways to manage stressors in their relationships, especially at home and in school”

    ^ There are certain people in power, and aspiring to power, who truly believe teaching kids how to manage and regulate their emotions in an academic setting has been “hijacked by the radical left”. That is an exact quote from someone running for our local school board when asked about social-emotional learning during a meet and greet.

    It’s pretty depressing because, given the sensible response you’ve shared, the people who have the local ability to help make change seem to be using buzzwords for a backwards agenda. That’s only within the context of school, of course. Us parents have a lot of work to do on our own (more if the schools are banned from talking about managing and regulating emotions and behavior). Either way, if the idea of taking a proactive approach on behavioral health becomes vilified and politicized, we’re in for a bad time.

    1. Thanks for the note and observations Chris.

      I wholeheartedly agree…people making comments such as “highjacked by the radical left” are mindlessly parroting statements tested in focus groups to scare parents and generate discord.

      it is up to all of us to push back hard against this nonsense.

      be well Joe

  3. Good, thoughtful, mature insight and recommendations. Maybe if enough people say, “Enough!”, it WILL be different this time. We need more mental health support and funding AND commons sense restrictions on guns, especially weapons of war.

    1. thanks for the note Donald…I wholeheartedly agree, all parents should be aware of the issues and seek help.

      be well Joe

  4. We absolutely need more mental health support. I agree 100% that parents play a huge role in this, but unfortunately not all kids have engaged parents – for a variety of issues – which adds to the issue. It is important to have counselors who can assist children in the schools so everyone who needs help gets it.

    I also want to note that sometimes when there is an effort to fix a complex problem all at once, nothing gets done. There are too many things to sort through and argue about. How about we tackle one common sense issue at a time? We can edge forward one step at a time to the best solution.

    1. Kari – if only every kid had two loving parents…patient, kind, with plenty of time to devote themselves to their kids…

      It takes all of us to help those kids without those advantages – thanks for the reminder.

      be well Joe

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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