We are going to OHIO!
At the end of February, I had the opportunity to travel to Columbus, Ohio to be a part of a very special event. I was asked to be a part of the dedication for the new Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nation Wide Children’s Hospital. Being invited to such a big event, such a special day and to be a part of something that means so much to me, mental health, was an honor and a privilege. I could not be more proud to have been included in this day. I remember sitting on the plane, and just thinking all about mental health, the importance of mental health. I couldn’t stop thinking about how there is such a stigma around mental health, all of the children who are struggling and suffering and not being heard, not feeling important or having their feelings be valid. I felt so much sadness. I also felt so much anger.
Thinking back to my own journey, I remember when I was a child how much I was made fun of, picked on, how I struggled with my own weight, self-worth, and body image. I had such a hard time loving myself, feeling like I was never good enough, and I was struggling in silence because I did not want to admit I was in pain and needed help. I turned to food to cover the pain, I pushed my feelings down and pretended they were not there. I kept a smile on my face and made jokes to keep from crying. I remember needing help as a child but not knowing what to do, who to ask and I felt so ashamed. I was always just told to lose weight, but deep down inside of me I knew it was so much more than that. Heading to this new Behavioral Health pavilion brought up so many emotions and feelings and brought me back to those times on the playground when no one wanted to play with me, feeling so alone and ashamed of myself and my body and not knowing what was wrong with me.
Years later, I finally got the help I needed, and I did not only lose weight but I am finally addressing all of the years of pain and hurt and taking care of my mental health. I always knew somehow and someway in my life I wanted to help children, adults, everyone understands the importance of mental health so no one feels alone, ashamed or made to seem like their feelings are not valid. It was not until after I took a trip to a doctor’s office and she told me to my face that my mental health did not matter to her that everything changed for me. Right there in her office, I made a promise to myself that I would help make some changes we so badly need in this world that involve our mental health and how important it actually is. Because yes, mental health does matter.
Arriving in Ohio
When the plane finally landed, I was filled with so many emotions. Yes, I did feel sadness and anger, but I also felt pride, happiness, excitement and I was ready to be involved in any way I could to start to make some much-needed changes. The opening of this new facility is a huge first step in making some very big changes and being a part of that really means the world to me.
Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion
So what exactly is this new facility and why is the opening of it so important?
Well, the Behavioral Health pavilion is the first-ever of its kind. It was built from, the ground up as a whole brand new faculty that was built exclusively for helping children and their mental health. This building is not an afterthought, it is not an add on or a retrofit, and it is not hidden away somewhere to be kept in secret so no one knows about it. It is a brand new facility, built specifically for mental health and it is right in the middle of downtown Columbus where everyone who visits has to see it. Everyday. People are forced to look at it, talk about it and it forces mental health to be a topic of conversation. This new facility is one of a kind and every single detail from the colors on the wall to the lights in the ceiling to the furniture that fills this building was perfectly thought up in order to help children who may be struggling. That is AMAZING!!!
When we arrived at the facility, there was a special presentation. The CEO of the hospital, the governor of Ohio, CEO of Big Lots, the Ohio State football coach and his wife were there…all of these big-time people were there to support mental health and there to help break the stigma. Hearing all of these amazing people speak, who all had the same goal in mind, wanting to help bring more awareness to mental health and wanting to help make changes surrounding mental health was so inspiring to me. I have been fighting for so long to make changes regarding how Doctors, insurance companies and individuals see and view mental health. So hearing first hand how these big-time people all had the same goal as I did, helped me feel strong and ready to keep helping and fighting and supporting in any way I could.
During the presentations, someone gave a great example of mental health. They said if they were to tell you that their child had cancer, you would cry with them, hug them and offer your support. You would tell them that you are there to support them in any way you can. But God forbid that they tell you that their child is bipolar, has anxiety or depression, there would be an awkward silence, people would not know what to say. The goal is to break that stigma, to break that silence, and to fill those awkward moments with support. To treat mental health illnesses the same as we would physical health illnesses. To break that stigma, we must talk about it, bring awareness and attention to it.
These speakers also mentioned that insurance companies and government officials need to change the laws and rules about covering for those who are struggling with mental health! YES!!!!!! Why should someone who needs mental help not get the same care and treatment as someone who physically needs help to fight some other disease? It’s not right. With this new behavioral health pavilion, it is taking that first step in the right direction. It is forcing people to see it, talk about it and hopefully realize just how important mental health really is.
Big Lots was the only company that actually decided to step up and help support this facility. They were not ashamed to be associated with it, have their name tied to it and understood the importance of what this facility truly was. So many other companies backed out and did not want their name associated with this type of facility…..that is the kind of stigma we are talking about here…..but Big Lots stepped up in such a huge way.
At the end of the presentations, the lights went dark, we held light sticks in the air to be a light in the darkness and we counted down to help open this amazing new facility. Seeing all of the lights glow so bright made me so happy. We must be the light in the darkness. We must be the voice in the silence. No matter how difficult, we must keep taking the first step, keep doing what is right and keep fighting to break the stigma. The time is now!
Time to tour the facility
After such a powerful opening ceremony it was time to get a tour of this new facility. The facility felt so bright, happy, welcoming and cheerful. It felt like children were going to be allowed to not only heal but be themselves. Every single detail was well thought out. From the wall colors to the furniture, to the layout of the rooms and even to the way the doors opened and closed. Every single detail was there to help these children and give them the best environment for healing. One of my favorite things was that each room had a big light that could change to any color so the child could pick want color they wanted their room to be.
The staff is all well trained and are there because they actually believe in the importance of mental health and because they want to help these children and make changes. They are not only there to help the patients, but their families as well. They keep them involved in the treatment and offer support and love to them as well. The staff can also work with the Childs school so when the child does return, the school knows the best way to help support that child as they continue their recovery. Nationwide Children’s Hospital does have a Ronald McDonald house for families who may not live in the area.
Nationwide Children’s hospital doesn’t believe that the ability to pay for services should affect a Childs ability to receive services. If you need help, they help. This facility truly takes care fo the child as a whole. They have special classrooms, an outside area on the roof so that the children can get fresh air and also be in the natural light, a gymnasium, an area for playgroup and an outside courtyard facility where children can eat, play or receive therapy. Each and every detail in all of these areas are thought out with healing and safety in mind. The paint colors, the coloring and type of flooring, the furniture shape and size and colors…..every single detail is there help.
They have also left some space in this brand new building to grow as well. Since it is a new facility, they are not quite sure what the exact needs will be they have left two complete floors as blank slates. If they need more in-patient service areas or more space for outpatient care they will be able to use these two empty floors to make sure what they need can be created. I love that they have kept this in mind and they have some of that extra space to grow and expand as needed.
The person giving us our tour shared that they have a therapy dog too. The dog even has its own space in the “backstage” area where the therapists have their desks. Our guide talked about how there is nothing quite like a seeing a child who has not been responding to a human face or interaction light up when they see that dog and feel that connection to an animal. This facility is truly a one of a kind and hopefully the first of many to come!
Children’s Mental and Behavioral Health Facts
Here are some facts and statistics involving children’s mental health. These are not in any particular order but they were all over the facility when we were taking our tour.
WOW! I am still filled with so many emotions as I sit down to write this. Being a part of this opening and dedication was huge for me. It opened my eyes to the changes we truly need regarding mental health had now much of a stigma there still is around mental health. No one should ever feel alone, have to push their feelings aside or to feel like they do not matter and or do not belong. Children should not have to live in shame or fear only to be told to just “toughen up”. Its time we all be that light. Its time we all help to break the stigma that surrounds mental health. Its time we replace these awkward silences with hugs. Mental health does matter, it is important and everyone deserves the same care, the same rights, and the same support regardless of what type of health it is.
So I ask you, help be that light and shine bright for yourself, for your loved ones and for children. Take the pledge to be inclined today and help break the stigma around mental health.
For more information and ways to help support this cause and facility, please click HERE.
If you or your child need immediate help due to suicidal thoughts go to your local emergency room immediately. Call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or you can reach the crisis text line by texting “START” to 741-741.