Next week is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. ACT_Raising Safe Kids is all about prevention of exposing children to being the witness, victim or perpetrator of violence. Preventing exposure to violence is one of the most important experiences for preventing serious and persistent emotional, behavioral, and developmental problems. Still, sometimes things go wrong. Then, what?
Problems can be just challenging behaviors that are developmentally normal: very small children pinch and bite often; toddlers defy commands and refuse to follow rules; pre-teens are nervous, struggle with negative moods and have to learn to manage food and activity to prevent obesity. Teens spend a lot of time alone, pull back from parents, and fight with family members. These are normal behaviors that requires responsive, accepting, and competent parenting. Still, what if the problems don’t get better? What if your child is suffering so much that she can’t go to school or he hurts others? What if, she is afraid to speak in class? What if, he won’t play outside because of bugs or dogs? What if there are tears every day — yours or theirs?
You are not alone. Most children who have difficulties with emotion or behavior are not getting the treatments that can help. Still, when you look for help for your child and your family it can be very confusing. We actually know a lot about how to help. There are a lot of people committed to understanding what helps and testing to see if it really helps. There are smart and talented therapists who can use all that good science and help you and your family suffer less and get better.
Unfortunately, people do not talk about even the most common problems. Anxiety and fear-related problems are very treatable. Lots of kids get better with good therapy. Aggression and negative behavior can improve with well designed therapies. And, psychologists have known for a very long time how to help families when a child cannot seem to learn to pee and poop in the right place at the right time! A competent provider can help you consider your treatment options and provide you with some choices about how to proceed.
Below is a list of some helpful web sites related to children’s mental health.
A summary of the current research demonstrating effective treatments for typical child and adolescent mental health problems. http://effectivechildtherapy.com/sccap/?m=sPublic&fa=sPublic
A website devoted to child mental health that includes information about needs, treatments, special topics, and advocacy; http://www.childmind.org/
Traumatic events devastate families and can have a lasting impact on a child. Parents are often looking for guidance in finding an effective treatment for their child. This website is devoted to educating families on services for traumatized children: http://www.nctsnet.org/
The government has a website with a wealth of information on child and adult mental health issues and services. http://store.samhsa.gov/facet/Issues-Conditions-Disorders
The American Psychological Association (www.apa.org) provides many resources including a blog that represents the collective insights a group of psychologists on child well being. http://www.yourmindyourbody.org/category/children/
Finally, youth suicide and self-harm is a terrifying issue to confront and no one should have to do it alone. Two website provide education, advocacy, and support for teens and familes: http://www.sptsusa.org/parents/
Another helpful resource is a book published by the American Psychological Association: How to Find Mental Health Care for Your Child by Ellen Braaten, Phd. APA: Washington DC. Available at www.apa.org.
State and National Psychological Associations often provide a member directory with information about specialty training and practice to support parents looking for a provider.
The more you know, the better you can do. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.