While en route to Stockholm to meet members of the World Federation Against Drugs, my husband, Dr. Chris Thurstone, and I hopped a connecting flight at Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J.
This ad was the first thing to greet us as we headed into the terminal — and it’s one we’d love to see, well, everywhere. It’s sponsored by the Jeffrey Modell Foundation, which is dedicated to generating awareness about, and raising money to treat, primary immunodeficiencies, or PI. As the foundation’s site states, PI is the result of defects in the immune system that are carried in the genes. There are more than 150 PI diseases, and they range in severity. Infections can be recurring, debilitating and chronic.
Often, PI is undetected — especially in kids — because it can look like seemingly ordinary childhood infections. Think runny noses, earaches and sore throats. Families and child docs are, according to the foundation, often “unaware that the troubling conditions they are dealing with are actually rooted in a defect of the immune system.” So, the foundation works hard to champion awareness about PI to help prevent infections in childhood from causing permanent damage.
Though the ad is focused on PI, it could just as easily be aimed at child mental health. An unfortunate number of children do not receive mental health treatment because their families and friends dismiss their behavior as “kids being kids.” As the Child Mind Institute reports, because the stigma of child mental health problems is so feared, parents don’t seek help for their children for an average of two years after their first questions surface. Those years are crucial for the child’s brain formation and function.
So, yes, we agree: “‘He’s a kid,’ is not a diagnosis.”