Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kids' Mental Health: A Road Map to Stronger Minds Premieres May 19

Healthy children mean a healthy future. But when one in five Rhode Island children has a diagnosable mental illness, what are we doing to ensure our children’s mental health? In Kids’ Mental Health: A Road Map to Stronger Minds, four distinct voices in the field examine the answers: a national leader in child psychiatry, a state-level director, a parent advocate, and a psychiatrist who works with vulnerable youth. The special premieres on Thursday, May 19 at 8 p.m. on Rhode Island PBS. (UPDATE: The entire show can be seen below.)

The conversation, presented by the Rhode Island Foundation, was inspired by “Child, Interrupted,” a story in the May issue of Rhode Island Monthly that delves into the state’s pediatric mental health care system. As revealed in the story, children’s mental illness is a problem that affects individual families and the state as a whole. Click here for the latest data on children’s mental health from RI Kids Count.

The print story centers on a boy named Conor, whose mental illness went undiagnosed for much of his childhood. Conor’s mom, Shana, said, “Throughout all of this, I’ve never felt so alone. And if talking about it is going to make one person in a similar situation feel less alone, it’s worth it.”

In no small part, that sentiment inspired Kids’ Mental Health: A Road Map to Stronger Minds, a conversation about our deteriorating mental health system, trauma, stigma and ways to help families in need.  During the one-hour premiere, parents, caregivers, educators, and other interested viewers are invited to call in and consult peer mentors — who are parents of children with mental illness — about strategies for working with schools, advice on treatment options, and resources available through the Parent Support Network.

The panelists who will help parents and providers navigate Rhode Island’s mental health care system for children are Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health; Dr. Gregory Fritz, president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and academic director of Bradley Hospital; Dr. Elizabeth Lowenhaupt, child and adolescent psychiatrist, Lifespan Physician Group/Rhode Island Hospital, and president of the Rhode Island Council for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; and Lisa Conlan Lewis, executive director of the Parent Support Network of Rhode Island.

“We facilitated this discussion in hopes of bringing the community together to improve the system of behavioral health care for children through advocacy, education, and services,” said Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. “We believe the community is stronger when everyone participates and engages in addressing today’s challenges.”

“Rhode Island is home to the first - and nationally-acclaimed - hospital dedicated to child and adolescent psychiatry, yet still faces a dire shortage of child psychiatrists,” said President and Publisher of Rhode Island Monthly John J. Palumbo. “Rhode Island is still a place where health insurance and insurance providers dictate the type and length of care. It’s still a place where the child and adolescent mental health system remains in crisis. We’re pleased to be collaborating with the Rhode Island Foundation and Rhode Island PBS to bring these critical issues to the table for Mental Health Awareness month,” Palumbo added.

Moderated by Casey Nilsson, associate editor at Rhode Island Monthly and author of the magazine article, the discussion was taped before a studio audience of parents, mental health advocates, and members of the community. In the final quarter hour, panelists answered questions from the audience, and questions submitted in advance by email.

“Rhode Island PBS remains committed to producing local content that is relevant to our community,” said President of Rhode Island PBS David W. Piccerelli. “Televising important conversations like this one provides immediate benefit to families looking for information about accessing children’s mental health services. It also has long-range benefits by raising awareness, raising questions that set remedies and policies in motion to address the issues surrounding children’s mental illness.”

Kids’ Mental Health: A Road Map to Stronger Minds will encore on Saturday, May 21 at noon and 11 p.m., and on Sunday, May 22 at 6 p.m. as part of the ongoing Rhode Island PBS series, Rhode Island Stories.

UPDATE: Watch the show in its entirety here:

About the Rhode Island Foundation 
The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2015, the Foundation awarded $41.5 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. 

About Rhode Island Monthly Communications, Inc. 
Based in Providence, RI, Rhode Island Monthly Communications, Inc. is Rhode Island’s leading full-service publisher of magazines and specialty publications, including custom publishing projects. Products include several lifestyle and tourism publications serving residents of – and visitors to – Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. 

About Rhode Island PBS 
WSBE Rhode Island PBS is operated by the Rhode Island PBS Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. WSBE Rhode Island PBS is a viewer-supported member of the PBS network of public broadcasting stations, and uses the power of noncommercial media to educate, engage, enrich, inspire, and entertain viewers of all ages in Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts, and eastern Connecticut since 1967. WSBE-TV delivers content on three channels: Rhode Island PBS (digital 36.1), Learn (digital 36.2), and Spanish-language content on Vme (36.3). For more information about programs and education services at WSBE, visit

WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits over the air on 36.1; Rhode Island cable: Cox cable 08/1008HD, Verizon FiOS 08/508HD, Full Channel 08; Massachusetts cable: Comcast 819HD (Comcast SD subscribers check local listings for channel), Verizon FiOS 18/518HD; satellite: Dish 36/7776, DirecTV 36.

Contributing Writer: Casey Nilsson, Rhode Island Monthly
UPDATED May 20, 2016; June 2, 2016