In November of the year 2000 my second daughter was born. Some time around February 2001 I was diagnosed with post-partum depression. I had returned to full-time work as a Kindergarten teacher at an independent school and the bottom fell out. It is an experience I would not wish on my worst enemy.
My primary care provider prescribed two very helpful medications and sent me to therapy. It was an incredibly rocky time. I remember counting the hours until I could take my anti-anxiety medication. The journey back from hell was slow going and it wouldn't have happened without therapy, medication, and family support.
During that time I taught Kindergarten, and beyond that I worked in after school care for the Columbia Association and then for twelve years I taught music and movement to preschoolers with special needs in the Howard County School System. I am now employed as a preschool teacher at Sandy Spring Friends School in Montgomery County.
I am an adult who has sought and received mental health treatment. I have benefited from therapy and medication and through it all I have been an excellent early childhood educator. I have never, not for one moment, been a danger to the children in my care.
Thursday night former BOE candidate Mike Smith got up in a Board Meeting and attempted to smear Board Member Cindy Vaillancourt by prying into her personal health records. He doesn't actually have any such information in his possession. But it was his intent to make it look as though he knew something that would prove her unqualified to serve.
Trespassing into the personal privacy of someone's health records is very likely a HIPAA violation and targeting Ms. Vaillancourt in this way is both a clear example of bullying and a violation of the rule that the public speakout is not to be used on matters of personnel. The fact that Board Chair Christine O'Connor did not immediately put a stop to this is deeply disappointing.
Do you know what they call people who seek treatment for mental health issues? They are family, friends, coworkers, perhaps your pastor, a local politician or your child's teacher. Do you know what they call people who don't seek treatment for mental health issues?
Too many people fear the stigma attached to getting help for depression and we lose them. We lose their talents, their love, their contributions to our community. Why do they fear that stigma? Because of people like Mike Smith and whoever put him up to this egregious stunt.
I'll probably struggle with depression and social anxiety all my life. It's a part of who I am, along with my love of writing, my funky upcycled crafting and my deep, deep devotion to teaching young children.
I won't allow Mike Smith to make me ashamed of who I am, or to attack good people like Cindy Vaillancourt. If you feel the same way, contact our local chapter of NAMI at http://namihowardcounty.org/ . (Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org) Let them know that you support mental health treatment without shame and that you condemn this vile attempt at discrediting a wise and devoted public servant.