Raising awareness of children’s mental health issues
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 13:50

Key Point offers therapy for both kids and adults

by Nicole Rodman

    Each year, one in five U.S. children is diagnosed with a mental health condition.
    Of those children, 79 percent will not receive mental health care.
    This is due to a lack of information as well as the stigma associated with mental illness.
    In an effort to raise awareness about mental illness in children, Key Point Health Services marked Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day last Thursday.
    During the day-long celebration, the North Point Road mental health clinic participated in events designed to educate the public, destigmatize mental illness and support families dealing with mental health diagnoses.
    While Key Point’s celebration occured last week, National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day usually occurs in the beginning of May.
    The day is part of May’s Mental Health Awareness Month.
    The aim of both the day and the month is to raise awareness of mental health issues and educate the public on signs, symptoms and treatment options.
   

“Essentially, we want to help prevent mental health issues from developing [and keep] others from getting worse,” Niki Picogna, coordinator of child and adolescent services at Key Point, said.
    During last week’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day events at Key Point, staff members decorated the waiting room with green balloons and handed out green ribbons and lollipops.
    Green is the national color for mental health.
    Children also participated in a fingerpainting activity and received special activity books.
    Staff members also wore green and marked the day with a pot-luck luncheon.
    The purpose of the event is to encourage parents and those suffering with mental illness to seek treatment.
    “Mental health problems are really treatable, so we want to encourage parents to seek help,” Picogna explained.
    While she did note that mental health issues may be “hard to identify,” Picogna provided a few signs and symptoms that may indicate a child is dealing with mental illness.
    For younger children, signs may include intense separation anxiety, a sudden drop in grades, severe worry, fear or anxiety, refusal to sleep, go to school or take part in normal activities, hyperactivity, fidgeting, persistent nightmares, persistent disobedience or aggression or frequent unexplained temper tantrums.
    In preteens and teenagers, signs of mental health issues are similar and may include a sudden drop in grades, changes in sleeping or eating habits, sexual acting out, depression, thoughts of death, threats of self-harm or harm to others, alcohol or drug abuse, persistent nightmares, frequent threats to run away, theft, vandalism or unusual thoughts or behaviors.
    Picogna encourages anyone who is worried that their child may have mental health issues to talk to their child’s guidance counselor, a spiritual counselor or their pediatrician.
    Any of these individuals can refer the child for mental health treatment.
    Picogna also encourages parents to keep connected with their children, using praise and encouragement rather than criticism.
    Parents should also provide consistency and structure for children and be open and supportive of a child’s feelings.
    Overall, Picogna noted, parents should follow their instincts.
    “Trust your gut,” she said, adding, “If you think there is a problem, trust your instinct and seek help.”
    For more information on children’s mental health issues, visit the web at www.
childrensmentalhealthmatters.org/.
     For more information on Key Point Health Services, call 443-216-4800 or visit the clinic’s website at www.
keypoint.org.