Wednesday
Jun282017

THE IMPORTANCE OF HELPING OUR CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry [AACAP] has a new initiative called "Break the Cycle" to fund new research; increase the number of child psychiatrists; and help mentally ill children to get the treatment they need. The May/June 2017 issue of the  AACAP News contains statistics including that: 50% of all mental illness cases are diagnosed by age 14; 79% of children ages 6-17 with mental illness do not receive treatment; more than 50% of children age 14+ with mental illness drop out of school [a very high rate]; and 13% of 8-15 year olds have severe enough mental illness that they have trouble with day to day living. Importantly, on average it takes 8-10 years for treatment to start after symptoms begin and sadly, more than 4600 children die from suicide. Of these deaths, it is estimated that 80% [3680 children] could be saved.

What can we do to help our children? Well, we can be open about our own needs and things that we have done to help ourselves.  Also, we can then encourage children to feel that they deserve to get help and do not need to feel embarrassed.  It is important to share your experiences with parents as they need to be ok about their children getting help.  You don't need to know if children have mental illnesses as encouraging people seeking help and not being ashamed is vey important to share with everyone.  Regarding the risk of suicide, if people, including children, talk about suicidal feelings, they are much less likely to act on these thoughts. So, if you are worried about someone, even a child, ask them if they have been thinking about hurting or killing themselves.  You can also ask if they have felt that life is not worth living.  A yes to any of these justifies talking to the child's parent[s] or to a significant other, best if the person who has said yes to one of these is with you when you tell someone else. I will do the same thing with my patient's as I let them all know that I am strict about confidentiality except when it involves their safety.

Just like with anyone we are with, listening to a child without our own reactions, then sharing our own experiences with fears, anxieties, sadness and any support we have received, can help that child to choose to seek and accept help for themselves. 

   

 

 

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