Dear Evan Hansen
Every day I meet an Evan Hansen or a Connor Murphy or an Alana Beck. Or a Zoe Murphy. Every day I meet one of these kids in our office, whether they are teens or still toddlers.
For the Evan or Connor who is already a teen, I take a deep breath. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Evan and Connor are characters in the musical (and now novel), Dear Evan Hansen. Both of whom are struggling with feeling alone, with feeling anxiety, with feeling/being depressed.
Without spoiling the musical for you (summary is here), I will just say that when I saw the musical, I thought of so many faces from this week alone.
One of the most frustrating things in medicine is trying to get my patients in to see a specialist. The worst/toughest one being if someone needs to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
Mental health is an afterthought in the insurance company’s eyes. Or, maybe they are smarter than that, and it’s just too expensive to cover.
Either way, we are dealing with an epidemic in our country. And sometimes it feels as if no one is there to help.
Even me. I wrote the above section after I saw the musical in January with Mini Me. The musical was amazing. The acting was superb. The nuances were fantastic. And the struggle for those teens and their parents—the struggle was/is real. So real.
I meant to post this as a comparison between the musical and the novel. Here’s the thing, however. I can’t get myself to finish the novel. I started it when it was first released back in October. Mini Me didn’t even finish it right away either.
It’s hard to read about depression. Even harder when it starts out with the main character emphasizing his monogram as MEH.
Even tougher than reading about depression, is living with it.
What Can One Person Do?
Check on your friends and loved ones.
I just finished a CME lecture that talked about depression and anxiety being treated mostly by primary care physicians in this country, maybe 80% or more. I can’t recall the exact numbers. I am both surprised and not surprised. As I said above, there’s not enough access to mental health services. And when there IS access, it’s very expensive. But my second thought?
That they must mean it for adult physicians. And even then there’s not enough time for any physician to take a full hour with a patient like a psychologist or psychiatrist would. We’re overbooked.
Why are primary care physicians overbooked? The reality of it is that we HAVE to be. Primary care, and pediatricians specifically, are underpaid and undervalued by health insurance companies for their services.
I’m saying this as a non-business owner. I’m in private practice, but just as I was when I worked at a community clinic, I’m paid by salary. The extra hours I put in are my own.
What are those extra hours? Those are my extra hours calling about your kids and checking in. I try my best to check in on the kids who are medically or mentally fragile AKA going through a tough time. I may forget, but I try my best.
And sometimes I still can’t connect. Sometimes people don’t want to talk about things so I get shut down.
What I want to say is that I still see you. I still see that things might be rough, even if you may deny the need to see a counselor, a therapist, a psychiatrist.
It may seem like I ‘m busy, but I still see you.
Some of you may slip through the cracks because I’m only human. And I’m only one person.
But if you’ve come to my office and you don’t think that I care, you’re wrong. I go home thinking about my patients. Every day.
So Connor, Evan, Alana, I want you to know that you’re seen. And you matter.