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Child Mental Health Awareness Promoted

ERICA BAJER
Chatham Local News - Friday, June 15, 2007 Updated @ 9:41:55 AM

Kids matter and so does their mental health.

That's the message organizers of an awareness event held Thursday hope to spread in an effort to increase core funding for children's mental health services.

Lisa Richardson, of Chatham-Kent Children's Service (CKCS), said many children struggle with mental health issues.

Most people don't realize how prevalent it is, she said.

One in five children under 19 years of age has a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioural disorder, Richardson said.

"Families need the support and early intervention is important," she said.

Richardson said common mental health problems among children include anxiety disorder, depression and eating disorders.

"A lot of them are undiagnosed," she said.

She said left untreated, mental health issues can manifest into behavioural problems. She noted the onset of most mental illnesses happen before age 18.

"It's important to see those early signs and take them seriously," Richardson said. "The child doesn't have to suffer needlessly."

Colleen Wadsworth, chief steward for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union at CKCS, said the union organized Thursday's event to highlight the reasons adequate, stable core funding is needed.

"I don't think the public is aware of the challenges we face in children's mental health," she said.

She said the system needs to be proactive, instead of reactive.

"Mental health can't just be triage, where we band-aid it," she said.

Long-term solutions are needed to address the issues and offer supports and services to children and families, she said.

According to OPSEU, stable core funding would mean a better ability to provide quality services, shorter wait times, fewer disruptions in treatment, less gaps in services, lower staff turnover and help children can count on.

The union said while the number of children in need of mental health services has doubled since 1993, funding between 1993 and 2003 dropped by eight percent.

Increases since 2004 haven't come close to addressing the need, the union said. Leanne Sullivan, a child and family consultant at CKCS, said preventative intervention is key in helping children with mental health issues.

"If you don't take care of the issues that start now . . . you're going to be dealing with them when they're adults," she said.

Sullivan said if issues are identified early, parents can better equip their children to move forward and they have a greater chance for successful treatment.

"It just gives them a good start," she added.

Taken from http://www.chathamdailynews.ca/webapp/sitepages/con tent.asp?contentid=572270&catname=Local+News&classif=.

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