While significant strides have been made when it comes to mental health awareness, there is still plenty of work to be done. One individual who is leveraging her career to combat stigmas surrounding mental health and contribute to the community is Domonique Hensler, Senior Director, Care Redesign Planning for Hospital & Network and Mental Health Integration, at Rady Children’s Hospital.

GB: What is your professional background and how it led you to where you are today?

DH: I have been fortunate to serve at Rady Children’s in various capacities for over 20 years, including facilitating a population health approach addressing the interrelated factors that influence the overall health of children. Mental health has increasingly emerged as a public health crisis. In fact, my family has been directly impacted by the mental health crisis. My daughter, Alexandra, was severely bullied in high school. As parents, we naively thought all was well – our daughter had good grades and participated in various school activities. After a particularly cruel day at school, Alexandra was in unbearable pain and just wanted the pain to end. Fortunately, Alexandra survived her suicide attempt and is thriving today, though she has had some PTSD as a result. Today, Alexandra is 22 and a comedy entertainer on social media, leveraging the platform to de-stigmatize mental health and inspire others.

Is there any advice you can offer families regarding mental health?

Protect your and your children’s emotional health as it impacts one’s overall well-being. As parents, we love our children unconditionally, and I have worked to be less rushed so that I listen without interruption. It is essential to avoid minimizing the problem as society tends to be bashful about discussing mental health. Warning signs include depression, anxiety, irritability, loss of interest, and poor sleep patterns. Speak to your child’s pediatrician and seek mental health services if he or she is struggling. Be aware of the pitfalls of social media as it is molding how young people perceive themselves. It is important for youth to have routines, including consistent sleep, good hygiene, and physical fitness. Find what works for your child – such as journaling, mindfulness and breathing exercises.

What makes the behavioral health programs at Rady Children’s so unique?

At Rady Children’s Hospital, we have an array of services that address depression, suicide, anxiety, attention deficits, eating disorders, and other concerns. Rady Children’s has even received generous philanthropic support to address the growing need for behavioral health services, including funding for programs such as the Behavioral Health Urgent Care, the Chadwick Center for Children & Families, and our new Copley Psychiatric Emergency Department.

Rady Children’s is also collaborating with our pediatric primary care partners to embed behavioral health therapists in their practices to increase access to mental health care. This program is now at two primary care offices with more in the coming year.

How does the Charity Ball help raise awareness and funds for the Mental Health Department of RCH?

Your support through the 112th Anniversary Charity Ball Special Edition Program will serve
as a beacon to children and families seeking guidance through some of the most complex child health issues. Together, through the generous spirit and tradition of the Charity Ball, we will directly address the mental health crisis gripping our children and provide intervention, treatment and a path to the bright future they deserve, long after the pandemic is over.

www.radyfoundation.org/charityball