Today’s post topic: Mental health.
Okay, so, I am a mental health professional. I am a licensed clinical social worker and a certified school psychologist. For most of my career, I worked in community mental health practices in rural areas, specializing in treating children and younger teens trying to survive abuse and severe mood and anxiety disorders. A few years ago, I made the leap to working in a school setting. I’m fortunate to have a career I love, in a place that lets me (barely) balance the role of mother and full-time employee, with dedicated and talented people.
Because of my professional expertise, because I’m a mother, and because I’m by nature a very anxious person, I’m hypervigilant about my children’s physical and mental health. Since the entrance of T1D and sensory processing disorder in her life, Madeline has been prone to a depressed mood. I’ve written before about how the impact of these conditions has steadily eroded her self-esteem and sense of power and control. She is also highly resilient, which has thus far kept her from the grasp of depression.
Recently, I read a local news story about a nurse who admitted to killing her brother-in-law, who was suffering severe pain and misery from cancer. As the details unfolded, it was revealed that she used insulin to do the job. She gave him a dose in the hundreds of units, and it killed him.
When I read this, it hit me for the first time that insulin could be purposely used as a means of suicide. Of course, it’s plainly obvious that it would be possible: too much insulin lowers the glucose level in the blood to life-threatening levels. It’s why we T1D parents are so afraid of our children dying from unexpected lows. It’s why many of us are up at night testing our kids. It’s why I tickle Madeline’s feet in the morning before she wakes up: a little trick the ICU nurse taught me as a way to test neurological response. If she pulls away, she’s still alive.
Having this realization—that insulin can be used to accomplish suicide—has ignited a new level of vigilance for Madeline’s mental health status. Her resilient nature has so far protected her from the clutches of depression, but I know that may change over time. T1D and sensory processing disorder are demanding conditions, requiring constant attention and imposing significant and relentless impacts on every single aspect of a person’s life. I’m not burying my head in the sand, here… depression puts people at higher risk of suicidal ideation, and this could happen to Madeline someday. And because insulin is her lifeline, her access to it can’t be restricted. There will come a time when she’s wholly in charge of dosing herself. As she moves through adolescence to adulthood, she may make a choice to live alone and she certainly won’t be constantly supervised.
Prevention and early intervention are essential to preserving physical and mental health. It’s why Madeline will soon be meeting with a clinical psychologist. Now is the time to build and broaden the support network, while she’s young, resilient and nurtured.