To the Medical Staff:
Fred Rogers was a gift. As a Presbyterian pastor in his beloved Pittsburgh, he demonstrated a quiet strength and extraordinary compassion for people – especially children. In May 1969, he made the case for PBS as a vehicle for childhood education. He extolled what matters to children: Their need to develop trust, his concern about how their minds were being “bombarded” by cartoons, as well as his commitment to leverage the simple dramas of everyday life (conflicts with siblings, etc.) instead of gun violence. He believed that 2 adults working out conflict with mutual respect is plenty of drama and has more educational content than in a 3- to 5-minute gunfight. Finally, he articulated four decades ago what we now appreciate as an unassailable truth: feelings are mentionable and manageable. Fred Rogers addressed mental health in childhood decades before we agreed to make it a national priority. Sadly, some still believe “child” and “mental” and “health” are more word salad than public health challenge.
One of my favorite lessons from Fred Rogers still calms my inner 12-year-old like nothing else. When violence erupts in our country, do not focus on the pain and hurt and grief portrayed on television and radio; focus instead on the HELPERS. The helpers include the prehospital professionals that deploy their skills on a moment’s notice, and will move heaven and earth if necessary to help a single person.
Recent episodes of national violence continue to sear our conscience, causing us to rethink our core values. These disturbing eruptions do not leapfrog those of us who deliver pediatric health care. Quite the contrary, the emotional and spiritual blast radius is quite wide and will affect members of our Medical Staff in countless ways. In the coming weeks, as our patients and families prepare to return to school, safety concerns will be raised. We will be called on to provide answers. Remind them that we are always here. Remind them that we never close. And remind them that we strive every single day to create with them, a future that is not only safer, but healthier than yesterday. Finally, remind our families that we are the helpers, we are truth tellers, and we keep our promises.
Please stay safe this summer and make time to care for yourself.
Editor’s note: this is an excerpt of Dr. Forbes’ letter on Aug. 7 to Akron Children’s Hospital medical staff.