Mental Health Issues in Children & Adolescents
It’s no secret that Americans spend more on healthcare than any other industrialized country in the world, but we’re sicker and have shorter lifespans than do citizens of other industrialized countries. Why? Frankly, it’s all a matter of some poor priorities.
Too many of our leaders are dedicated to pretending the issue doesn’t exist, while too many people from all walks of life are left underserved, ignored and uncared for in our communities and schools. The ones who suffer the most are our children.
As we head into back to school season, it’s important to understand what we are facing, to listen to what children and adolescents have to say about mental health and to ACT.
Getting Our Heads Out of The Sandbox
Americans have been avoiding the topic of mental health issues for decades.
Mental health problems tend to be under-researched, undertreated, and over stigmatized. According to the National Institute for Mental Health:
- An estimated 49.5% of adolescents had any mental disorder
- Of the adolescents with any mental disorder, an estimated 22.2% had severe impairment as defined by DSM-IV criteria.
Sadly, that’s just the beginning. The child welfare system is meant to be the first line of defense for neglected, abandoned or abused kids who are most vulnerable to mental health problems in the future. Arizona’s is overburdened, understaffed, and underfunded.
In addition, the number of “special needs” students has soared in recent years. Special needs can range from learning disabilities to emotional disturbances. Experts say these are the children most likely to display aggressive or violent behavior in the classroom, but politicians continue to cut budgets, eliminate much-needed programs or refuse to discuss the realities of mental health needs.
KidsMentalhealth.org underscores the fact that mental health is by far the most important aspect of any child’s social and cognitive development and offers a range of information and resources for parents, healthcare professionals and policymakers.
A recent video about coping with trauma, abuses and mental health challenges features several teens from Mount Vernon, NY discussing what mental health means for them in the face of dealing with trauma, depression, social isolation and lack of a support system.
One memorable quote: “You can’t heal what you don’t reveal.” highlights the need for children and adolescents to be able to share their problems with a counselor or mental health specialist. The problem? A new report shows Arizona is dead last in the student-to-counselor ratio with an average of 924 students per counselor, while The American School Counselor Association recommends 250 students per counselor.
If we can’t break the cycle for these children, their school performance will suffer, and this has the potential to color the rest of their lives. The cycle will continue to repeat itself as they grow up and have families.
Clearly, we can’t afford to ignore mental health issues any longer. But what can the average person do when the medical community and policymakers move slowly or not at all? Get loud. Act. Get innovative. Create programs and shout the successes from the rooftops to gain support. Like Bayless.
Bayless Integrated Health: Leading the Way Despite Challenges
Nearly 1 in 4 children in Maricopa County are living at or below the poverty line, and many lack access to needed healthcare services. For example, studies show 70 percent of Arizona children with major depression do not receive needed mental health treatment. That’s completely unacceptable.
At Bayless, we refuse to accept status quo. We are especially committed to bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to youth and patients in lower-socioeconomic communities. Our care delivery model has evolved from a mental health agency into a comprehensive, patient-centered, integrated health entity while maintaining our ranking among the state’s leading behavioral health providers.
To help expand access to underserved children and families in Maricopa County, the new Bayless Integrated Health Clinic offers physical and behavioral health services to approximately 12,000 to 13,000 students in the Avondale Elementary School District including Avondale Middle School, Elíseo C. Félix School and Lattie Coor School.
Bayless Integrated Healthcare was also recognized by Creighton School District, presenting us with their Community Impact/Partnership Award for our placement of a full-time Wellness Coach at Loma Linda Elementary School to help support the social-emotional health and wellness of students in the Phoenix community.
It’s a start. We have a long journey ahead. But you can be certain, we’re in it for the duration. Our children deserve nothing less.