Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Closing the Gap for Children's Mental Health

By Darcy Gruttadaro, Director of the NAMI Child and Adolescent Action Center

Half of all mental illness begins by age 14. Many people do not know that. They also do not know
that, on average, eight to 10 years will pass from
the onset of symptoms to the time of intervention
for those living with these conditions. In the life of a child, those are critical developmental years.

When children and youth living with mental illness have access to effective services and supports, they can develop close relationships with family and friends, learn to cope with challenging symptoms and gain the educational and social experiences they need to succeed in life.

This week, as we observe National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day (May 9), there are two ways we can work to close the gap.

First, is by getting schools involved in helping to identify struggling students and linking them with effective services. Second, is getting primary care providers involved.

Let’s start with schools. Children spend about six hours a day in school. They often exhibit the first warning signs of mental health concerns while in school. Unfortunately, most of these children are not identified early and linked with services. Schools need more information about the early warning signs of mental illness, how to talk with families and how to help. For this reason, NAMI developed Parents and Teachers as Allies, an in-service education program that covers these topics. This program has been popular with many schools and gets them interested in learning more about children’s mental health. Please consider bringing it to your community. The booklet that accompanies the in-service program is also extremely popular with schools. So even if your school is not ready for the in-service program, please consider at least sharing the booklet to get the conversation started.

Primary care providers, such as pediatricians and family doctors, are also natural allies in helping to close the gap. They see most children starting at a very young age and then over a number of years for well-child visits, vaccinations, illness, sports physicals and more. Primary care providers also are increasingly playing a role in addressing the mental health needs of children and youth because of the critical shortage of children’s mental health professionals.

But more can be done to get them involved.

NAMI has talked with families about their experiences with primary care providers. In a national survey, they shared recommendations on how to make primary care offices more welcoming to conversations about mental health concerns and how to start these conversations. This led to the creation of resources for primary care providers, including the publication of A Family Guide: Integrating Mental Health and Pediatric Primary Care. Please consider sharing these resources with pediatric and family practice offices in your community. Emphasize the importance of primary care professionals making a commitment to identifying children and youth who may be struggling with an emerging mental illness.

To observe National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, let’s make a commitment to close the gap so that children and youth with emerging mental illness can be identified early and linked with the services and supports they need to get a healthy start in life.


Grace Phoenix said...

Thank you for this. As an individual who had suicidal thoughts and a plan at age 8 but did not get diagnosed until 30, I lived alone in the dark for many years.

I don't blame anyone, though ... I just wish when I did say things starting/exhibiting in my teens, people might have considered it possible I was in trouble and didn't know how to ask for help in another way.

willys said...

A child is like a tree. When they are young they can be supported so they grow up strong.

Zinia said...

This is really scary that children have to go through this all of their childhood and no one to talk to.The parents should take up the initiative to keep an eye on their kids so that they can grow up with a healthy childhood.

susan carreon said...

My daughter was diagnosed with schzipronia when she was 28 years old, but i knew something was wrong when she was about 7 years old. I took her to her peditrician because she was pulling her hair out and acting out.I was told that it was nothing and not to label her at such a young age.Then when she was 15 years old i took her to another doctor and she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and put on meds. She was having pyschotic episodes and anger problems. She was off meds for 9 months because she was pregnant at 28 dpss took her baby from her at the hospital and a year and a half later she died from and overdose. I cannot tell you how important it is for a child to be diagnosed early and to also have a therapist assigned to the child. Had she had a therapist
i believe she would be alive today.
When children act out and isolate themselves this is a sure sign something is wrong !

Anonymous said...

What is very scary and is very real is that mothers with a mental illness, who are in treatment. Do not have the common sense to recognize those symptoms in there own children.The school will catch some of them and treat for adhd. The children that live in darkness as I did go untreated because they are quit they don't cause trouble. Some are treated for their mental illness, they are never told what it is or why it happend to them. Again I have witnessed this firsthand. I took the time to research the illnesses of the children. Tried to educate the mother with no success. Bipolar mother with a young friend who helpedher raise these four children after the divorce. I bring up the friend because she also had bipolar disorder. One in four people will try to commit suicide. In bipolar people one in two will attemptor commit suicide. The young friend that helped to raise these children was the one in two. Last September 26,2011. One of the children answered the phone, was told by the young friend she was leaving earth today, the child 12 year old girl told the 25 year old that her mother was busy she could not talk right now. Doesn't that tell you at the very least, have this child tested for add or bipolar or just talk to a counselor. The mother herd the call called her back. Talked for 45 minutes. The friend told her where her body would be and that she had a 22 shotgun. When she hung up the phone the mother called meeee. Not 911 or her friend back the friends family. I call immediately to my dear young friend voice mail. Called her father. We found her body the next day. So all of us went through this the mother of four is now a mother of five, untreated Bipolar patient yet the three boys are all on medicine not the daughter why?

Lanajoseph@Baby Shower Decorations said...

Sometimes we can be also the cause these conditions because it has been proven that physical punishing can lead to mental illness.

Nikki Madison said...

It would definitely be a major help for care providers if the other parts of the mental health equation knew the roles they needed to play. It will be easier for the practitioners to handle the professional part of children's mental health if everybody else was helping out.

Violet Defoe said...

There definitely needs to be greater cooperation between parents and doctors regarding a child's mental health. Doctors should be more observant with regards to the symptoms that vulnerable or affected children may exhibit, even at a young age, in order to make an earlier and more successful intervention.

Azizul Haque said...

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