6/14/23 blog post
Greenville teen represents Dayton Children’s on Capitol Hill to advocate for behavioral health resources
Engaging with lawmakers to share the mental and behavioral health emergency many teens are facing
Sixteen-year-old Charlie Pope is no stranger to sharing stories. As a theater student whose favorite thing in the world is reading and making art, Charlie is something of a storyteller. And this June, Charlie will be sharing the story of their mental health journey with lawmakers on behalf of the more than 7,000 children also treated for a behavioral health crisis at Dayton Children’s last year.
Charlie Pope and mom Tiffany are representing Dayton Children’s Hospital in the 2023 Children's Hospital Association's Family Advocacy Day, on June 20-22. During Family Advocacy Day, families from across the country will represent their children's hospitals while engaging with lawmakers to increase awareness about and advance public policy priorities that address:
- Timely access to doctors and other professionals trained to meet the unique health care needs of children.
- The vital role Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) play in families' lives, providing health insurance to nearly half of all children.
- The mental and behavioral health emergency that children and teens are facing.
In Washington, D.C., Charlie will meet with members of Congress to discuss the role of the children’s hospital in their health journey and why further legislative action cannot wait. The Pope family believes it is critical to increase awareness about the ongoing and essential care provided by children’s hospitals like Dayton Children’s Hospital.
Charlie’s story of hope
Charlie Pope was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at the age of 11, but in the summer of 2022 Charlie, who uses they/them pronouns, began to struggle more than before. Charlie loves to read, make art and spend time with their favorite people (including their pet rats!). But when Charlie’s mom, Tiffany, noticed Charlie wasn’t enjoying these activities, she became concerned.
“For a long time, it was hard for me to be happy...I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to feel okay. But when you struggle with mental health, it can feel overwhelming and even impossible to enjoy the things you know are important to you,” shares Charlie.
When Charlie told Tiffany that they no longer saw the point of anything, including life, Charlie’s family immediately sought help from local doctors who referred them to Dayton Children’s Hospital. Charlie was admitted to the hospital's inpatient program, where Charlie received 24-hour supervision and participated in group and individual therapy. Physicians and psychiatrists monitored Charlie and adjusted medications as needed.
“Helplessness and terror are the words that best describe my feelings at that time,” said Tiffany. “It was comforting to know, once Charlie was admitted to the hospital, that we were taking the best steps to help Charlie, but it was still the scariest time of my life because I didn’t know what was coming next or if the treatments would work."
Charlie moves forward in becoming an advocate
It has now been six months since Charlie received help from Dayton Children’s and the change has been monumental to Charlie’s life.
“I am very proud to say that I am working hard, and that when I laugh and smile with my friends, it’s genuine. I have become better at allowing myself to be honest about my emotions, and to talk about them with people who are important to me. It took work. It took education. Most relevant, though, it took acceptance. I had to accept myself for who I am, and I had to realize that it’s ok to struggle,” shared Charlie.
Tiffany says that the skills Charlie learned at the hospital were life-changing and lifesaving. With continued therapy and support, Charlie is now doing extremely well, and has a more positive outlook on life.
“I hope I can make an impact, however large or small it may be. I want other young people to see that it’s ok to struggle. I want people to realize that it’s ok to accept yourself, to talk to others, and to get better,” says Charlie.
Charlie’s story is a powerful reminder of the importance of mental health treatment for children and young people. It highlights the need for early intervention and ongoing support, as well as the crucial role that hospitals and other healthcare providers can play in helping young people to overcome mental health challenges.
“Children’s Hospital Association stands alongside these courageous children and their families as they share their stories on Capitol Hill. Each has fought to overcome significant health challenges, and they bring that same fighting spirit to D.C. to urge Congress to prioritize children’s health care,” said Amy Wimpey Knight, president of CHA. “The many issues facing children’s physical and mental health illustrate the numerous opportunities Congress has to embrace the role of children’s hospitals in sustaining the entire ecosystem of patient care, provider training, and pediatric research investments so every child can receive the care they need to thrive.”
About the Children’s Hospital Association
The Children’s Hospital Association is the national voice of more than 200 children’s hospitals, advancing child health through innovation in the quality, cost and delivery of care. You can click here to read more about Charlie’s story and other families attending Family Advocacy Day.
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