Can We Enhance Private Safety Nets?

Problem: How can we deliver mental health treatment to those who do not seek it?

When I was at my worst, I was completely withdrawn. I did not speak to friends or family about it. I certainly did not log on to the world-wide web looking for answers.

As more of our lives, particularly of young people, intersect with the internet, I think that information about symptoms and treatment will reach us faster.

Yet I know that someone who wants to remain hidden, will try, and ‘succeed’ … quite possibly until it’s too late.

I’m ambivalent about the idea I floated yesterday. Federal agencies using technology to spur early treatment of mental illness is a nice theory, but impractical. It’s also certainly questionable whether or not we are ready for such a thing.

The mere existence of a federal program to detect ‘suicidal writing’ would open a Pandora’s box of fear, and possibly stifle important forms of expression. That’s not the answer.

Let’s remove the actors ‘federal’ and ‘government’. What about private institutions?

Here are a few examples of events that could prompt a mandatory assessment meeting:

  • Posting two or more F’s in one semester in any high school or college
  • Deteriorating, chronic physical pain being reported to a physician (as well as several other ‘red-flag’ symptoms, such as insomnia)
  • Gradual (or sudden) incompetence or absence from work.

I wasn’t blogging about it back then, but there were warning signs. Please don’t misunderstand – I do not blame anyone for my depression. I simply believe that when an ‘A’ student posts a 0.0 GPA for an entire semester, a computer should alert a counselor about it – before that child is permitted to continue at school.

Yes, I did that. I’ll write about it in detail tomorrow for you.

What do you think? Can our doctors, teachers, and employers act as a safety net?

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