National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week

Friday, April 30, 2010

Childhood measles, pneumonia and diabetes are taken seriously. But what about children's mental health and mental illness?

It is estimated that one in five children have mental health problems that are real, painful and can be severe to the point of being life-threatening. Unfortunately, an estimated two-thirds of all young people are not getting the help they need. However, there is hope since children's mental health problems can be recognized and treated.

May 2 - 8 is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week. Can you recognize a problem with your child's mental health? Answer these questions:

* Does your child seem angry most of the time? Cry a lot? Overact to things?

* Does your child avoid friends or family? Want to be alone? Lost interest in things usually enjoyed?

* Does your child destroy property, break the law? Hurt animals or other people?

* Is your child extremely fearful? Does your child have unexplained fears or worries more than other young people?

* Is your child limited by poor concentrations? Suddenly having trouble making decisions? Do their grades show a marked decline?

* Is your child obsessed about how they look? Experiencing unexplained changes in sleeping or eating habits?

* Complaining of headaches, stomach aches or other physical problems?

* Does your child feel life is too hard to handle or talk about suicide?

If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions above or if you see troubling behaviors that seem persistent and severe, it's time to take action by talking to your family doctor or mental health professional.

While it is unclear whether more youth are suffering from depression and anxiety than in the past, what is true is mental health officals are better able to detect, diagnose and treat these issues. As a community every need to help raise awareness of mental health issues for the youth and the fact effective treatment is available. Parents, teachers and other care providers need to work together to build on the strength of the youth.

Change only occurs when individuals take responsibility and begin to do things differently. Take time during the week of May 2 -8 to do something that improves the mental health of the children and adolescents in your life or contact your elected officials to encouraged continued support of mental health services for all those who need it but are unable to receive it.

Plains Area Mental Health Center is a non profit outpatient clinic that provides Outpatient Counseling, Medication Management, Community Support, Consultation and Education, and Emergency Services. For a free on-line mental health assessment for depression, anxiety, bipolar, eating disorders, alcohol, post traumatic stress disorder and adolescent depression log on to and click on the Free Online Assessments link. It's confidential, private and offers referral information if needed.

Offices are located in Cherokee, Le Mars, Ida Grove, Storm Lake and Orange City. If you have any questions regarding this issue or would like to know more about mental health services, please contact Patrick Schmitz, Executive Director of Plains Area Mental Health Center at 800-325-1192.

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