May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Children and teens are particularly at risk for mental health issues—including depression, anxiety, PTSD and other issues. According to statistics from the Surgeon General, approximately one in five children in the U.S. will experience a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder between kindergarten and graduation. Failure to address childrens’ mental health needs can have devastating consequences.
Despite the high frequency and the need for help, too many myths and unspoken stigmas plague families who have children struggling with mental health issues. NAMI Westchester offers peer-directed programs in education and support at no-cost. These programs support families, individuals living with mental illness, students, and mental health and school professionals.
More discussion and a public health approach are necessary to address disorders and promote mental health in children. Addressing mental health issues are the responsibility of a parent, school and community, as parents cannot promote mental health alone. As noted by the National Association of School Psychologists, schools are excellent places to promote good mental health. Children spend a significant amount of time in school, and educators have the opportunity to observe and address their needs. Doing so effectively requires developing the capacity both to reinforce children’s natural mental health strengths and to identify and respond to children suffering mental health disorders.
If your child has a mental health issue, it is important to understand how to seek community support and to understand the legal obligations of your school district. Too many parents view mental health issues as a “private issue” or believe that things will improve. It is almost impossible for parents to handle mental health issues alone. An experienced attorney and advocate can help you work with your child’s or teen’s school in complex situations involving children’s mental health. Read about “Signs of Mental Health Problems in Children” by clicking here.