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Helping Parents Help Their Kids

PHOTO: Research indicates that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by the age of 14.
PHOTO: Research indicates that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by the age of 14.
December 27, 2012

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, research indicates. Parents can often see issues that arise but may not know where to turn.

Jennifer Kline, executive director of South Dakota Voices for Children, says it is sometimes difficult for parents to seek help for their child.

"Some of it is that people don't realize that children are having emotional issues, they just think, 'Oh, they are just kids.' They don't realize that this may be an underlying emotional disturbance. Some of it is financial; people don't think either health insurance doesn't cover things, or they think it's going to be too expensive."

Most mental health providers in the state will work with parents concerned about the financial cost, Kline says, to make sure their children can get the help they need.

Kline says the website sdkidsmentalhealth.org has resources available for parents that may not know where to turn for help.

"It really is a first step in seeking any kind of help. It gives parents a clearer understanding of what mental-health issues there are, how to recognize problems, and then all the different services that are available in South Dakota."

Mike Forgy, clinical director at East Central Behavioral Health in Brookings, says that facility does a lot of family therapy and is seeing increasingly younger children with emotional issues.

"We do a lot of work with parents, and a lot of work with parents with young kids especially over the last three or four years as the age of children that we see has gone down. That's a fact too. Used to be, probably the mean age of kids we used to see was about 14. Now it's probably around 12."

Forgy says his clinic has seen children as young as 2.

Parents can contact one of 11 community mental health clinics around the state if they need help with their children, Forgy says.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD