Children and Mental Illness: Services and Timing are Critical

28 May 2013 Written by   Wendy Fayles

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and provided us the opportunity to invite a guest Blogger from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Thanks to Wendy Fayles, Family and Consumer Mentor, National Alliance on Mental Illness-Utah for providing her insights into the importace of timing and availability of services.

 

Children and Mental Illness: Services and Timing are Critical

When our oldest daughter started junior high school, she went from being “the perfect child” to dressing in black, staying in her room, having trouble in school, and being angry all the time. Finally we realized our bright, bubbly daughter wasn’t just experiencing the normal ups-and-downs of adolescence. Something much more serious was happening. That “thing” turned out to be clinical depression.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, one of every five children is diagnosed with a mental illness, yet less than half receive the treatment they need. Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and three-quarters by age 24. The Institute of Medicine reports that mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among youth cost $247 billion annually in mental health and health services, lost productivity, and crime.

Innovative programs to improve access to care have emerged in a variety of settings, such as school-based interventions, primary care/mental health collaborations, and community-based services. In Utah, organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Utah provide free education classes for adolescents with mental illness, as well as classes and support groups for parents of children with mental illness. The Family Resource Facilitator Project helps families of children with mental illness by providing free “Wrap-around” facilitation to help the family and child identify community services and supports that help the child and family live independent and productive lives.

But there is still so much more that needs to be done. Families in many rural areas of Utah do not have access to a child psychiatrist because there are simply none available. Even in our more populated areas, child psychiatrists often have a waiting list of several months or longer. When a child is in crisis, it is critical they receive diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Without this diagnosis and treatment, the child, the family, and even the community could be put at risk.

Wendy Fayles,

Family and Consumer Mentor, National Alliance on Mental Illness-Utah