A Public Health Crisis: Children and Adolescents with Mental Disorders | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Posted on May 11, 2005

From: The Campaign for Mental Health Reform

Washington, D.C. — A school superintendent whose daughter once attempted suicide, a college student, a social worker, a board-certified child psychiatrist, and a clinical psychologist who served as a member of President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health warned today that children’s health and well-being could be at risk without programs for early identification, evaluation and treatment of mental disorders.

In briefings for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the Campaign for Mental Health Reform (CMHR) addressed misinformation and distortions surrounding a critical need identified by the Surgeon General and the President’s Commission – as well as by the medical and public health communities.

"Children’s mental health is a complex topic," said Cynthia Wainscott, spokesperson for the Campaign for Mental Health Reform and Chair of the National Mental Health Association's Board of Directors. "Unfortunately, it’s also vulnerable to misinformation, misrepresentation and political rhetoric. The fact is that early identification, comprehensive evaluation, and if necessary, treatment of mental disorders in children can save lives."

Only 20% of children with mental disorders are identified and receive mental health services, leading to school failure, substance abuse, involvement with the juvenile justice system, and suicide.

"Early diagnosis is the key to living a life of wellness for many young people with mental disorders," said Lydia Lewis, President of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and also speaking for the Campaign. "For parents, early identification and comprehensive evaluations enable them to make informed decisions.  And for our kids, early and effective treatment will positively impact their performance in school, provide for a more satisfying and productive life, and most importantly, help reduce the high mortality rate associated with these illnesses."

Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) sponsored the briefing in the Senate. In the House, the briefing was held in coordination with Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus.

The Campaign for Mental Health Reform is a national partnership of organizations representing millions of people with mental or emotional disorders, their families, service providers, administrators, and other advocates. It seeks to make access, recovery, and quality in mental health services the hallmarks of our nation’s mental health system. 


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