Mental well-being has increasingly become a major focus in our conversations about overall health, and for Sandy Mueller, LCSW, senior director of Behavioral Health Services at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, that’s a very good thing. Our whole-child approach means the team supporting children includes a growing list of care providers, including pediatricians; psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors; nurses; child life specialists; case managers; recreational therapists; and social workers. Working together, Sandy and this talented group take action to ensure the children and families in the communities we reach have ever-growing access to the behavioral care they need to reach their highest potential and healthiest peaks. We sat down with Sandy to learn more about her passion for her profession, her views on the future of mental health care, how she’d spend her dream vacation and much more. Keep scrolling to get acquainted with this incredible asset to Rady Children’s!
What inspired you to get into the behavioral health field?
I was working as a court clerk in Family and Juvenile Court and watched so many amazing social workers advocate for children. This is where I decided to become a social worker.
What do you feel have been some of the most important advances in behavioral health in recent years?
The reduced stigma and that more parents and kids are recognizing symptoms and seeking help!
What opportunities still exist?
Building up a continuum of care that supports existing services and provides for all forms of treatment across the trajectory. This would include prevention/early intervention, acute emergency care, inpatient, intensive outpatient/partial day programs, and outpatient therapy, with access for children regardless of whether they have commercial or state funding.
How can families work together to support members struggling with behavioral health conditions?
Watch, listen, act! If you have concerns and see changes in your child’s behavior, talk openly about what you are seeing and be direct in asking if your child feels safe or is having thoughts of wanting to hurt themselves.
What is the most challenging thing about your role or field? The most rewarding?
Challenging: seeing fear and desperation in the eyes of the parent or patient. Rewarding: being able to offer some solace during a crisis and seeing the transformation for the child/parent as they move through the continuum of care.
What advice would you give to those interested in becoming behavioral health professionals?
Build upon your resiliency and tenacity. Know that it takes a village/team. It is not easy — it is a marathon, not a sprint, so run slowly and keep breathing.
If you could be any animal, which would you pick and why?
Easy answer, a horse. Love their beauty, strength and freedom.
What would be your superpower of choice?
To fly … I like to move fast and get places. This would allow for that.
If you could only listen to five bands or artists forever, who would they be?
Journey, Rush (I am Canadian), Chris Stapleton, U2 and the Pogues.
You have a month for a dream vacation. What’s on the itinerary?
Backpacking through Europe/Great Britain and living like a local.
What are some of your hobbies?
Skiing, horseback riding, hiking, playing with my dogs and keeping up with my two young adult sons!