Letter: Children, teens have mental health needs

From: Elizabeth Patton


As a society we need adequate mental health treatment for our children and teens. Children today face many stressors — increases in cultural and personal violence and discord, increased drug abuse, child abuse and poverty, as well as frequent exposure to anxiety-inducing cultural events. Families are suffering from lack of funds, lack of time and lack of support for optimal child health. Many children today are stressed and depressed but have few social or coping skills to face these mounting pressures.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five children is suffering from a mental health disorder, and of those, only 20 percent are identified and receive services. There are many serious consequences to leaving children’s mental health untreated, including suicide, substance abuse, school failure, criminal involvement and adverse health consequences.

Suicide was the second-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds in 2011 (suicidology.org), and our community is not outside its reach. School failure and criminal involvement affect every one of us; today’s kids are tomorrow’s citizens. And addiction and adverse health conditions are an expensive long-term cost we should always strive to address proactively.

As a society, we must face these needs head-on and put our time, will and resources toward addressing them. We need to raise awareness that children and teens can have mental health needs and that they should be taken seriously by families, schools, medical providers and the community as a whole. We need to ensure that any child with a mental health need has easy access to treatment. And we need to provide the funding and resources to ensure that the treatment is available where and when it is needed.

Early identification and intervention can make a difference not only in the life of that child and family but in the health and well-being of our entire community.

Bartholomew County is blessed with very dedicated and high-quality mental health professionals who strive to provide all that is needed to the youths of our community. But we must, as a community, do more to support those who are out there working with kids and families every day. I would like to highlight the work of Family Service Inc., whose mission of “strengthening families” aims to address the vast needs of our children and adolescents. The annual Family Service “Got Family” Run/Walk is happening Nov. 14 at Southside Elementary School. Join them as they raise funds to benefit Family Service and to raise awareness of our critical community needs.