Young people can have mental, emotional, and behavioral problems that are real, painful, and costly. When unaddressed, these problems can take a toll on families as well as our schools and communities.
The number of young people and their families who are affected by mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders is significant. It is estimated that as many as one in five children and adolescents may have a mental health disorder that can be identified and require treatment.
Mental health disorders in children and adolescents are caused by biology, environment, or a combination of the two. Examples of biological factors are genetics, chemical imbalances in the body, and damage to the central nervous system, such as a head injury. Many environmental factors also can affect mental health, including exposure to violence, extreme stress, and the loss of an important person.
Families and communities, working together, can help children and adolescents with mental disorders. A broad range of services is often necessary to meet the needs of these young people and their families. (From the SAMHSA website, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
On this page, you will find information and resources on:
Schools play a critical role in helping students diagnosed with mental illnesses reach their full academic and functional potential. The academic performance and behavioral functioning of students significantly improves when their mental health needs are effectively addressed. NAMI calls on schools to adopt the following ten best practices: download School Best Practices (pdf).
Reinvesting in the Community: A family guide to expanding home and community-based mental health services and supports
NAMI has released a publication titled Reinvesting in the Community: A Family Guide to expanding Home and Community-Based Mental Services and Supports, to inform families about the importance of expanding the array of home and community-based services and supports available to children and youth with mental illness and their families.
To download a copy of the family guide, please visit NAMI’s Child and Adolescent Action Center website by clicking here. Sections of the guide in Spanish are also available online.
The Children’s Mental Health Planning Committee convened in 2008 to build a plan to transform the Children’s Mental Health System in Utah. The goal of the Committee is to create a comprehensive service delivery system to enable children and youth to stay in their homes and communities and to keep families together.
The children's mental health coalition has created a Bill of Rights for Children with Mental Health Disorders and their Families. "This Bill of Rights represents the standard of what families living with mental illnesses should expect from treatment," said AACAP's President, Robert Hendren, D.O. "Children do better when they receive consistent, tailored treatment. Few children receive any treatment and fewer still receive the sustained, quality care that they require."
The Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Waiver (HCBW) is a vehicle that allows states to apply to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand the array of intensive home and community-based services available to children and youth with serious mental health treatment needs who require a hospital level of care.
Getting an accurate diagnosis for your child can be challenging. Several factors contribute to this challenge, including the following:
- Symptoms – that often include extreme behaviors and dramatic changes in behavior and emotions – may change and develop over time.
- Children and adolescents undergo rapid developmental changes in their brains and bodies as they get older and symptoms can be difficult to understand in the context of these changes.
- Children may be unable to effectively describe their feelings or thoughts, making it hard to understand what is really going on with them.
- It is often difficult to access a qualified mental health professional to do a comprehensive evaluation because of the shortage of children’s mental health providers and because some health care providers are reluctant to recognize mental illnesses in children and adolescents.
For some children, having a diagnosis is scary and they may be resistant to accept it. Others are relieved to know that what is happening to them is caused by an illness, that they are not alone, and that there are treatment options that can make them feel and do better. It is important to find ways to use the strengths and interests of your child to help him or her cope with difficult symptoms. Benefits are often derived from aerobic exercise, martial arts, music, and art – whatever it takes to provide your child with a therapeutic outlet. The diagnosis is one piece of a much larger puzzle.
National Organizations and Information:
- NAMI National Child and Adolescent Action Center
- NAMI Fact Sheets by Diagnosis
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation
- National Eating Disorders Association
- Information on Eating Disorders
- Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health
- Utah Family Resource Facilitator Project
- Utah Parent Center
- New Frontiers for Families
- Allies with Families
- Reinvesting in the Community: A Family Guide to Expanding Home and Community-Based Mental Health Services and Supports
- Choosing the Right Treatment: What Families Need to Know About Evidence-Based Practices
- Crisis Intervention Team for Youth
- Improving the Mental Health & Well-being of America's Children