04-25-2017 · Mental Health

When you are asked “how are you feeling today?”, what is your response? Do you typically respond with some grand measurement of how well you are doing? What about the days when you’re not quite feeling like yourself? When addressing our physical health, we know that a call to our doctor or a trip to the drug store, in many cases can remedy our symptoms. For those who experience or support loved ones with mental health challenges, the remedy is not so simple. Many do not see or believe mental health is an issue until it happens to them or someone close. Children and young adults have even more of a challenge in expressing when something is just not quite right with them. They often keep feelings to themselves and find it difficult to connect with people, whether it’s children or adults who understand. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is estimated that 1 in 5 youth ages 13-18 have, or will have a serious mental illness. On average, diagnoses for mental health issues in youth occur between the ages of 16-19. Additionally, 37% of students with a mental health condition ages 14 and older drop out of school, making this the highest dropout rate of any disability group. Most alarming is that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24. Warning signs often include fluctuations in mood or behaviors, significant changes in weight; self-harm or other actions that get in the way of daily activities.

The average delay between the onset of symptoms and intervention is 8-10 years. With such a large gap in the discovery and possible treatment of mental illnesses, what clues or signs can parents readily notice in children under the age of 10? Or children under 5? If you are experiencing shifts in moods, eating habits or sudden changes in physical discomfort, talk with your child’s pediatrician. If behaviors persists, ask for a referral to a behavioral health specialist. For school-aged children, we encourage you to work with teachers and administrators in identifying changes in your child’s behavior. Most importantly, we encourage you to connect and build supportive environment with family, friends and neighbors. Early detection and adequate support are key to combating behavioral health issues.

United Way of Greater Atlanta partners with school systems, nonprofit organizations and community agencies to address critical gaps in behavioral health services for children and families. Learn more about our partnerships and hear thoughtful discussions around strengthening mental health opportunities for children, families and the greater community at our Mental Health Learning Forum.


Written By Ebony Johnson, Manager of Health at United Way of Greater Atlanta