October 2018, A National EpidemicPosted by Deb Brown on 10/1/2018 5:00:00 AM
A National Epidemic
Imagine that you have just opened the newspaper and read that in a recent study it was found that one out of every seven children in the United States had been diagnosed with an illness that can be devastating to their growth and development. The article describes the symptoms to include frequent stomachaches, general physical complaints, difficulty sleeping, headaches, irritability, and an inability to concentrate. You further read that 13% to 20% of the children who experience this disease may go undiagnosed and unhelped. And so you ask—what disease is so dramatically impacting our youth? Why is this not headlines in every major newspaper? The disease that’s plaguing the nation’s children is mental illness. Mental illness has many faces: the largest category is Attention Deficit Disorder, followed by behavioral conduct problems, Anxiety, Depression, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Symptoms are sometimes dismissed or advice is lightly offered such as “pull up your bootstraps”, “just get over it”, or “stop worrying about it”. While we may mean well, those with significant impairments require the intervention from a trained professional, just as they would with any other ailment. In a 2013 CDC study, it was reported that US children with mental disorders who were diagnosed early and provided with appropriate services could learn to manage their illness with very positive outcomes. So why do some families turn away from available help? The answer- mental illnesses carry a stigma that we have lived with for far too long.
In New Hampshire, we are fortunate to have a voice that is shining a light on the devastating impact that a mental disease can have on a child and their families. Retired Judge John Broderick is spearheading a coalition that is identifying the warning signs of anxiety and depression and is encouraging parents and their families to seek out the support and treatment for their children that will help them thrive and grow.
At Alton Central School we are taking a deep look at how we can best support children who may have these challenges and how we can actively foster a partnership with parents so that together we can provide an environment that will help children be their very best. If you would like more information on this topic or you are looking for resources in the Alton area, please go to www.changedirection.org or
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/children-and-mental-health/index.shtml or visit the myacs.org website under the “community resources” tab.
Remember, not all illnesses can be seen on an x-ray or felt by the skilled hands of a physician. If you have concerns that your child is experiencing fears, anxiety, or confusion that is interfering with their ability to function, reach out for assistance. Illnesses take on many forms. Let’s bring an awareness and understanding to this childhood epidemic.