In an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times (6/12), Neal Halfon, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics, health services and public policy at the University of California-Los Angeles, writes, “Researchers at the National Institutes of Mental Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have documented that less than 50% of children and youths with mental and behavioral problems receive appropriate care, especially in underprivileged communities.” He points out, “The best way parents and friends can respond to signs of mental health problems is by recognizing warning signs and intervening early.” He goes on to list a number of signs that may indicate possible mental-health issues in youngsters and teens.
“The best way parents and friends can respond to signs of mental health problems is by recognizing warning signs and intervening early. Every child has bumps along the road to adulthood, but some things to watch for include:
• Problems “getting along” across a variety of settings, such as at school, at home or with peers.
• Changes in appetite, sleep or concentration.
• Social withdrawal, or fearful behavior toward things your child normally is not afraid of.
• Returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bed-wetting.
• Signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness.
• Signs of self-destructive or risky behavior, such as head-banging, cutting or a tendency to get hurt often.
• Excessive or unusually early experimentation with alcohol or drugs.
• Repeated thoughts of or conversations about death.”
— “Mental illness and lessons from Kelly Thomas’ last cry for help,”Neal Halfon, Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2012.