Mental Health

Mental illness doesn’t deserve stigma

JESSICA FEHRENBACHER Correspondent

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

While working with youths, we meet young people in all stages of development.

Some come into our agency as outgoing, confident high school seniors, while others are shy, awkward freshmen.

The opportunities to see the young people develop and find their way during our time together is inspiring.

What can make the situation heartbreaking is when a young person with mental health problems crosses our paths.

Mental health problems never have had a stigma for me.

I’ve grown up with true respect for those who have a mental disorder or illness and those who help treat those with problems.

Before working with youths, I worked with people who had mental problems.

My family includes a psychiatrist and social worker.

A social worker once told me, “You wouldn’t judge someone who has diabetes or heart problems, why would you judge someone who has a mental illness differently? It’s the way they are made; it’s chemical.”

Often when youths show signs of mental illness, families want concrete answers to explain why the child has these problems.

The causes of mental illness are complicated, according to www.samsha.com, Mental health disorders in children and adolescents are caused mostly by biology and environment. Examples of biological causes are chemical imbalances in the body, damage to the central nervous system (such as a head injury) and genetics.

JESSICA FEHRENBACHER Correspondent

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

While working with youths, we meet young people in all stages of development.

Some come into our agency as outgoing, confident high school seniors, while others are shy, awkward freshmen.

The opportunities to see the young people develop and find their way during our time together is inspiring.

What can make the situation heartbreaking is when a young person with mental health problems crosses our paths.

Mental health problems never have had a stigma for me.

I’ve grown up with true respect for those who have a mental disorder or illness and those who help treat those with problems.

Before working with youths, I worked with people who had mental problems.

My family includes a psychiatrist and social worker.

A social worker once told me, “You wouldn’t judge someone who has diabetes or heart problems, why would you judge someone who has a mental illness differently? It’s the way they are made; it’s chemical.”

Often when youths show signs of mental illness, families want concrete answers to explain why the child has these problems.

The causes of mental illness are complicated, according to www.samsha.com, Mental health disorders in children and adolescents are caused mostly by biology and environment. Examples of biological causes are chemical imbalances in the body, damage to the central nervous system (such as a head injury) and genetics.

Environmental factors that put youths at risk to mental health disorders include exposure to toxins (such as lead); exposure to violence (witnessing or being the victim of physical or sexual assault, muggings, other disasters, etc.); stress related to chronic poverty, discrimination or other hardships; and the loss of important people through death, divorce or broken relationships.

According to a U.S. News & World Report article on teen mental illness, teens’ concern about their family’s reaction to their depression is a major reason many teens don’t seek treatment. Also mentioned as barriers to treatment are cost of care, concerns over perceptions of others, difficulties making appointments with doctor or therapist, constraints due to time and other responsibilities, concerns about telling family members about the depression, the unavailability of good care and a lack of desire to get treatment.

What can we as youth workers, parents, mentors and friends do to help youths who are having mental health problems?

We can encourage them to seek treatment. One’s mental health is just as important as physical health.

Also, it is important to realize that for many youths this is an extremely difficult subject.

Confidentiality should be encouraged unless the youth feels comfortable sharing the information.

Make use of resources that are available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/ or the National Institute of Mental Health at www.nimh.nih.gov are informative and helpful Web sites.

Take the time to offer care and concern for the youth and his family. Being a supportive person for someone who is taking steps to improve his mental health is an extremely valuable asset.

Jessica Fehrenbacher is a program manager at Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana. Since 1987, Youth Resources has engaged 141,970 youth in leadership development and community service through its youth-led TEENPOWER, Teen Advisory Council, Teen Court and Make A Difference Grant Programs. For information, call (812) 421-0030, ext. 16, or go online at www.youth-resources.org.

 

  © 2010 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online

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