National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week-Speak Up for Your Child’s Mental Health

May 6-12 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week organized by the Child Mind Institute and supported by a number of adolescent health and substance abuse organizations. The following is a message from the president of the Child Mind institute, Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., a leading child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Why is it important to have an entire week to bring a spotlight to children’s mental health? Simple, because the public perception of child and adolescent mental illness hasn’t changed along with the possibilities that have opened up to treat or even prevent it.  Because stigma and misinformation STILL stand in the way of kids getting treatment that could really change the course of their lives.

Where we have areas of progress — like effective medications for ADHD — there’s a backlash, and lots of people blaming parents. It’s become common to read that ADHD isn’t real, that the symptoms are caused by poor parenting and that these same poor parents are using medication as a “quick fix” for their kids’ bad behavior. There are plenty of cases of misdiagnosis, when the doctors doing the prescribing aren’t well-enough informed about ADHD. But the kids who are not getting diagnosed and treated are a much bigger concern.

Instead of people embracing the tremendous upside of early intervention — the possibility of preventing a lifetime of dysfunction and suffering —  it is common to hear from the media that we should just let kids grow out of their problems. The children who need help are those who are way out of the normal range for  symptoms such as; distraction, hyperactivity, anxiety, impulsiveness, moodiness, disruptive behavior, and they are seriously impaired by them.

No one would tell the parents of a child with diabetes or leukemia that they shouldn’t seek treatment, and no one should tell the parents of children with psychiatric or learning disorders that they’re overreacting by getting help, whether it’s medication or behavioral therapy or both.

Obviously, we need a national conversation about children’s mental health, to force out into the open the parent-bashing and misinformation that is being promulgated. We need all our kids to have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, and to get there we need you to help spread the word about early and effective intervention.

This week people all over the country (and the world) will be speaking up for kids who are struggling and the parents who are trying to help them. They will be telling the world that childhood psychiatric disorders are real, common and treatable.

There are events happening all over the country during this week to bring attention to children’s mental health. Go here to see where an event might be in your area.

Also the national organization SAMHSA is holding the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 9th. There will be a televised awareness event held in Washington D.C. and  SAMHSA is providing a live webcast for those that cannot attend. To watch the webcast go www.samhsa.gov/children from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., EDT, on Wednesday, May 9, 2012.

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