Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Children’s Mental Health Week

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this is Children’s Mental Health Week. Across the nation people will be wearing green ribbons to increase awareness of children and adolescent mental health issues (personally I think the whole ribbon thing has been over-done). However, the issue is critically important.

According to information from the Illinois Federation of Families, 1 in 5 children and adolescents have a diagnosable mental health disorder, 1 in 10 have a serious impairment as a result of a mental health disorder. That is an incredible amount of disease. What is really upsetting, however, is that about 65% of children and adolescents in need of mental health services do not receive the care they need. A percentage of those end up in my office, preventable deaths. Treatment success rates in these individuals is 80%. Early detection and treatment for these individuals is highly likely to result in healthy, recovered lives. Lack of treatment, on the other hand, results in a high likelihood of dropping out of school, involvement in the juvenile (and later, adult) justice system, long-term problems and difficulties.

We all have to be involved in advocating for availability of services and fighting service cuts, advocating so that those that need help seek help, and fight the stigma that surrounds mental health care and mental illness. We wouldn’t put up with these numbers if we substituted some other diagnosis instead of “mental health disorder” above. An illness that has an 80% cure rate that isn’t being adequately treated would be front-page news, but apparently not so if it is mental illness.

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