Shining Light on Children’s Mental Health Care Needs
As we try making sense out of senseless tragedy, much will be discussed about gun control, cultures of violence, safety measures in our schools and more. As providers of mental health care, we want to shine light on the need for early intervention and access to treatment for children and their parents. As parents, we’ve witnessed a tantrum or two, but when a child’s acting out behaviors cannot be stopped with normal parenting skills, professional intervention is critical. What does that behavior look like? Some examples:
- Tantrums that limit a parent’s daily activities out of fear that the child will hurt herself or others if taken outside the home,
- A child who doesn’t engage with the outside world,
- A child who isn’t reaching milestones, isn’t learning,
- A child who exhibits inappropriate sexual behavior.
What can cause children to act out? These behaviors can be triggered by:
- loss of a loved one,
- significant trauma like a car accident or witness of violent acts,
- emotional, physical or sexual abuse,
- or something as “benign” as moving to a new house or having a new sibling enter the family.
Early intervention is key to success. Parents, teachers, school administrators and counselors, physicians and other health care professionals are keys to early intervention that leads to the right course of treatment for the child. Also, it can’t be stressed enough that parents are as important to the treatment process as the child. Children are experiential learners, so parents need to have the skills to communicate and deal with a child who is acting out.
As parents, the subject of mental health care for a child can be frightening and daunting. However, knowledge is power. Be aware that treatments may range from medication for a biochemical disorder like ADHD, to a combination of medication and therapy for Adjustment Disorders, to intensive, ongoing therapy for trauma related disorders. You should also know that we have seen increases in insurance coverage for mental health care and leadership from NYS in integrating child mental health care into primary care physician’s practices, such as our recently opened satellite mental health clinic at Woodward Health Center. We strongly encourage movement toward making mental health screening a component of every well child visit.
Healthy, happy children and families result in fewer costly ER visits, less work time lost, better school attendance, for adolescents less drug use and criminal justice system involvement. Bottom line? We achieve a healthier community.
Mark A. Wickham
President & CEO