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ADHD is a Serious Physical and Mental Health Disorder – Response from CADDAC’s Founder

Written by Heidi Bernhardt R.N.

During this year’s ADHD Awareness Month’s Campaign CADDAC shared ADHD facts from peer reviewed research. Our media release and bus shelter posters stated that ADHD is a serious mental health disorder that can significantly impact one’s mental health as well as physical health. Consequently, a few followers shared that they found the messages too negative. They would have preferred more positive messaging, fun facts about ADHD and more comments on individuality and neurodiversity. As a mother, grandmother and spouse of someone with ADHD I can certainly understand these feelings. We want others to recognize the individuality, strengths and other wonderful traits of our kids and family members with ADHD and not just the down side.

One of our Facebook contributors suggested that it would be beneficial for CADDAC to let people know why we think people should know these facts and what CADDAC’s next steps are after this campaign and bus shelter advertisement. I though these were very insightful questions that should have been addressed earlier, so here goes. 

Unfortunately, medical research data by its very nature always removes individuality. It looks for commonality, raw data and percentages that can be used to draw conclusions. I remember when I first found out that ADHD was a part of our family, about thirty years ago, I read medical texts written for clinicians because little else was available. Even with a background in psychiatric nursing I found these extremely depressing. Most of the research data made it sound like my child was heading for a life of failure, unfortunately that has not changed much. After working closely with ADHD experts through CADDRA while building CADDAC I quickly realized that ADHD information, even if basically the same, should most often be nuanced according to the audience.

But here’s the rub. If we don’t share the negative facts about ADHD openly and bluntly, ADHD will never be recognized as something that requires society’s attention. We still lack resources for assessment and treatment nation wide. Access to multimodal treatments, even when strongly backed by research, are costly and difficult to access. Many students with ADHD across Canada are still unable to access the supports they deserve in order to reach their potential. Employers still do not understand that ADHD is actually a medical disability and similar to depression should allow the right to accommodations.

We at CADDAC also find it hugely concerning that: large mental health organizations still offer very little information about ADHD; many mental health centres still do not treat ADHD; many medical professionals still know little about ADHD and those that do often charge over provincial coverage to diagnose it; and large mental health awareness campaigns still do not include ADHD in their messaging. 

Almost on a daily basis CADDAC is reminded that our decision makers and elected officials do not understand the serious consequences of ignoring ADHD. They really don’t think about ADHD at all because they believe that ADHD is of no interest to their constituents. You see, their constituents do not speak to them about ADHD unlike parents of children with Autism. 

So, this year CADDAC chose to put out some hard facts about ADHD. Through our ADHD Speaks campaign this October, ADHD Awareness Month, we are asking that people share those hard facts with their elected officials or others that needed to be educated on ADHD.  

We ask you, our followers, to stay tuned as we further expand our online advocacy campaigns this fall and into 2021. We plan to highlight specific advocacy asks in each campaign and will be requesting those personally or professionally impacted by ADHD to help us inform our elected officials that their constituents actually do care about ADHD.

Warm Regards,

Heidi Bernhardt

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