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Spotlight on Children’s Mental Health



 © 2010 By Deborah Beasley, ACPI CCPF

According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Conference Report on Children’s Mental Health in 2000; “The nation is facing a public crisis in mental healthcare for infants, children and adolescents.”  The Report stated at that time, “Evidence compiled by the World Health Organization indicates that by the year 2020, childhood neuropsychiatric disorders will rise proportionately by over 50 percent, internationally, to become one of the five most common causes of morbidity, mortality, and disability among children.” In the light of these harsh facts it is crucial parents understand how early mental health intervention for children, and accessible supportive community services for parents, help secure long term stability and future success of families in crisis.

Although the above statistics are a decade old, they hold strong relevance for 2010.    Despite challenges and positive changes in our nation’s mental health systems of care, significant numbers of families enter into crisis each year as a result of increasing mental health diagnoses in children and adolescents. Children are being diagnosed with mental illnesses at younger ages and at alarming rates.  How can parents and caregivers be prepared?

Know If Your Child is at Risk

Children who have experienced traumatic situations or losses early in life, whether single incident or for prolonged periods are at significant risk for developing mental and emotional health disorders.   Traumas can include:

  • Abuse and neglect
  • Pre and peri-natal trauma
  • Medical trauma or trauma from accidents
  • Foster Care or multiple disruptions of care
  • Loss of caregivers due to violence or death
  • Domestic violence
  • Bullying
  • Adoption
  • Divorce

Know the Signs

  • Seeming inability to self-soothe or regulate emotion
  • Prolonged sleeping difficulties
  • Prolonged eating  difficulties
  • Intense fears which do not go away
  • Poor – or fleeting eye contact
  • Intense or unusual behavioral displays or outbursts
  •  Self-harm or thoughts of death
  • Intense anger, defiance or aggression
  • Sudden drop in grades, social isolation or school aversion
  • Risk taking such as in sexual behaviors, use of drugs, alcohol, other substance abuse
  • Sudden changes in moods or hypo/hyperactivity

Know How to Get Help

If you have a nagging question about certain behaviors, trust your gut;

  • Contact your child’s pediatrician or primary care doctor for possible screening or assessments
  • Do not rely on information from the internet to ‘self-diagnose’ your child, it will only increase your fear and you may incorrectly apply symptoms  to your child
  • If your child has a diagnosis, DO consult the DSM IV* online to better understand possible  implications of the diagnosis (*Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)
  • Develop a sound home and community action plan for the safety of your family and child
  • Identify supportive resources within family and community which may include church, parenting coach, health care professional or local hospital crisis center
  • Find educational opportunities through classes and workshops which offer training to better understand your child’s difficulties and build and enrich good parenting skills.
  • Remember you are never alone in your struggle to raise your child.  Search for ways to connect with others who share your experience through online and local support groups.

Know the Facts

“One of every ten children and adolescents suffers from mental illness in the United States.”  This means one in ten families is in crisis.  Children and families in crisis mean higher risk for: depression, child neglect or abuse, spouse/partner abuse, divorce, separation, eating disorders, increased physical illness in parents due to prolonged elevated stress, secondary traumatic stress in siblings and other family members living with and caring for high risk children, disintegration of relationships within families, isolation in the community, suicide, and more. 

Early care, intervention, and education for families lead to improved outcomes for children at risk to develop mental illness.  Early recognition of childhood emotional difficulties leads to the development of stronger support systems for parents and caregivers.  A well integrated mental health care plan for children and accessible supportive community services for parents helps secure the stability and future success of our families.  When parents are educated and supported in the best care options for their children, families become empowered from the inside out.   An empowered family is a strong and sustainable family!   And this is the desired outcome we all want!

©2010 by Deborah Beasley ACPI CCPF




 Deborah Beasley, ACPI CCPF, is a Certified Parenting Coach working with families with high needs children, course presenter, and adoptive parent.   Deborah is the author of From Foster Care to Adoption- Navigating the Emotional Journey, A Parent’s Guide to State Adoption (2010) available on her website.  She is a regular contributing writer for The Women of Gloucester County online magazine, and a New Jersey Parent Advocate.  Deborah is the founder of Together At Last Family Support in Gloucester County, New Jersey which provides phone and in home coaching services, parenting education courses, and peer support.

Contact Deborah on the web: www.TogetherAtLastFamily.com  

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