There’s both good and bad news on the status of kids’ mental health in research just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The good news is that more kids are getting help for their emotional and behavioral problems, with 13.2 percent of children receiving mental health services in 2012 compared to only 9.2 percent in 1996.
The bad news is that only 44.6 percent of children with severe mental health problems received any professional assistance.
There is no single or simple reason why more than half of our kids with serious problems received no professional support. This may be due to a shortage of pediatric mental health specialists, parental financial issues, problems with getting off from work to attend sessions, or the refusal of kids to participate in therapy.
However, here are the top three reasons I’ve heard from parents.
- “I don’t know how to find a good therapist.” Many parents are confused about how to identify the appropriate professional needed by their children. Should they go to a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker? How can you obtain information about the training and skill of such a person?I advise parents to start off with a discussion with their child’s doctor. It’s also helpful to speak with professionals at school, or contact your closest children’s hospital. Try to find someone who will carefully listen to your concerns and advise you as to what is needed.After you’ve located someone, contact the office to get a sense of what will happen during the first session. Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy, continue your search.
- “I stopped therapy because it was a waste of time.” Children with severe impairments typically developed them over a long period of time. Don’t expect instant solutions. After your therapist has completed an evaluation, ask three questions.First, clarify your involvement in therapy. If you are not significantly involved in the process, find another therapist. Second, discuss how you will know if progress is being made. Finally, ask the therapist to estimate about how long it may take to see some gains.Sometimes a therapist just isn’t a right fit for you or your child. Change therapists. Don’t give up on treatment.
- “I’m too overwhelmed with my own problems to get help for my child.” It may be better to postpone seeking assistance for your youngster if you are experiencing severe problems. Take care of yourself first. If your child’s problems are extremely serious, see if a family member can help out.
Severe mental problems in childhood and adolescence resonate throughout a person’s lifetime. Please get help for your child.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, join Dr. Ramey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey. Dr. Ramey has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Blog since 2007.
[Reprinted by permission from the June 7, 2015, edition of the Dayton Daily News, “Why aren’t you getting help for your child?” Gregory Ramey, PhD]
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Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.