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Children’s Mental Health -- Warning Signs Often Overlooked

May 6, 2008

Bismarck, ND – Many North Dakota children may be wrestling with mental health problems, but aren't getting valuable treatment because adults aren't aware of the warning signs. It's "National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week," and for Carlotta McCleary, of the North Dakota Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, the national statistics mirror what also is happening here.

"One out of five children and youth at any given time will have a mental health problem; and yet, only two-thirds of them are getting the help that they need. So, we need to bring some awareness to the fact that children have mental health needs."

Often, McCleary points out, children exhibit the following, telltale signs of mental issues -- but they're dismissed by adults as "probably not serious."

"If you notice that your child or adolescent is troubled by feeling really sad or hopeless, without good reason. If the feelings don't go away; if they are very angry most of the time; if they cry a lot or overreact to things, or say they feel worthless or guilty."

For parents, a good first step in such cases is to discuss their concerns with a physician. Parents also can contact the Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health. The important step is not to ignore signs and symptoms, she adds. If left untreated, mental disorders can linger into adulthood. They can harm a person's chances of finishing school, getting and keeping jobs, living independently, and forming stable families of their own. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates Americans spend $100 billion per year on mental health issues -- and another $100 billion on the consequences of untreated mental illness.

Dick Layman/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - ND