A major problem that can be seen in children today is that there is a high occurrence of mental illness among them. This is a matter of great concern more because it is not easy to identify the signs of mental illness in little children and more often than not parents fail to distinguish the symptoms of mental illness from their normal behavior. Some common mental conditions that can be identified in children are anxiety disorder, attention deficit, autism which is developmental problem, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, mood disorders like depression or prolonged feelings of sadness, and schizophrenia which causes the children to lose touch with reality. According to the staff of Mayo Clinic (2012), there are certain signs that parents should be able to observe as signs of mental illness in their children. Children may suffer from extreme mood swings which can negative affect their relationships with peers, or they can show symptoms of withdrawal for a prolonged period. They can also show signs of excessive fear for no apparent reason that can result faster heartbeats or lack of appetite. Mentally ill children can exhibit signs of violence by using weapons in order to hurt other people. Other signs can be that children may lose focus on their work due to lack of concentration, can get inclined towards substance abuse or can show inclination towards suicide or can cause physical injury to self (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2012).
The increasing number of children with mental disorders has become a major cause of concern for the United States. Prevalence of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and extreme depression can affect children at a very early age although their symptoms become difficult to identify as they are distinctly different from the manifestations in adults. In many cases, children with mental illness remain ignored by their parents for various reasons like absence of medical coverage or lack of knowledge by the parents. Moreover, there are cases where parents believe that their children will recover from this illness gradually with growing age. Such misconceptions held by parents are reasons for delayed treatment of mentally ill children. It becomes the responsibility of social workers and therefore they should be equipped with efficient skills for recognizing the symptoms in children in order to provide appropriate interventions so that negative impacts can be minimized. Taylor (1998, pp.312-313) has mentioned different reasons that attribute towards complications in the diagnosis and treatment process of mentally ill children. First, although such illness is similar for both adults and children, manifestations are different for each case. Second, children are efficient in expressing their feelings, experiences and perceptions. Third, treatment strategies for mentally ill children are subjected to less research than that of adults. Fourth, welfare social workers are often not adequately skilled at identifying mental illness in children. Fifth, comprehensive programs in communities focus more on older adolescents and young adults. Sixth, there is lack of sufficient research records that can facilitate clinics and agencies in the context of mental illness in children. Taylor has concluded that it is the task of the children and family welfare social workers to encourage parents so that they do not ignore the medical attention required by their mentally ill children.
In May 2013, a report was published by CDC that stated mental disorders are a common problem in children and they can be diagnosed during childhood. Children with mental disorders like depression, anxiety, ADHD or behavioral problems can adversely affect their learning capabilities along with behavioral and emotional development. In most cases, proper diagnosis is possible during school years or every earlier; however there is also high possibility that many children with mental illness cannot receive correct diagnosis and therefore do not get proper treatment. According to the CDC report (2013), it is possible mental illness in children can be diagnosed and treated. There are many available options that have proved to be effective, and therefore the need is that parents of such children duly collaborate with those who are involved in the treatment of these children like doctors, therapists, coaches and teachers. With the help of available resources and timely diagnosis, medical service can bring about a positive change in the lives of these children. Since mental health can become a chronic problem, therefore it is likely that lack of early detection and proper treatment can cause children to suffer from the same during their entire life span. Mental illness can occur in any child irrespective of ethnic or racial backgrounds in the United States. Thirteen to 20 percent of American children suffer from psychiatric disease every year, and an approximate $247 billion is expended per year on paediatric behavioural illnesses, according to a 2009 National Research Council and Institute of Medicine survey. Considering the negatives effects of mental illness among children, this is a major issue of national concern in the country. Records have shown that ADHD is a problem in millions of American children especially those between the age of 3 and 17, and it is more prevalent among boys than girls. Moreover, suicidal tendencies are more prevalent among boys than girls between the age of 12 and 17. However, young girls are more prone towards substance use compared to boys (CDC, 2013). Based on a report by the United States Surgeon General, suicide due to mental problems like depression is the sixth most common cause of death among children between the age of 5 and 14 (Wilkinson, 2012, p.12). Although the exact reasons for mental illness in children have not identified, nevertheless it is assumes that a number of factors attribute to mental problems ranging from hereditary problems to environmental stress. Wilkinson has stated that diagnosis process of mentally ill children is complicated by the fact that their brain and body are still in the stage of development. Therefore, behaviors like temper tantrums that can appear to be normal at a certain age like 5 year old can seem as mental problem at adolescence. Most doctors are not appropriately skilled to make proper diagnosis of the mental condition of young patients (Wilkinson, 2012, p.13).
Chabra, Chavez and Harris (1999) have studied mental illness as cause of hospitalization among elementary-school-aged children who were between the age of 6 and 12 and were from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. It was found that 8.1 percent of children hospitalized were suffering from mental illness, with a higher percentage among boys than girls. Moreover, children from Latino and Asian communities showed lower risk than whites. Chabra et al. have suggested that clinicians need to pay more focus on elementary-school children especially from minority groups since although they suffer from identical cases like the whites, they do not avail of inpatient services as often as the whites. In Chicago, focus is given on providing quality services to people suffering from mental health problems with coordination between Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and service providers. The objective is to encourage people to avail the facilities of insurance under the Affordable Care Act along with providing direct medical services to those people who are not insured. Other than ensuring availability of resources, Chicago also has a number of hospitals, government agencies, non-profit organizations (NGOs) and private clinics that provide medical care to the needy. As per records, 35,000 outpatients receive medical care every year through Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), for which more than $20 million is invested (CDPH, 2014).
In 2012, there has been focus on bolstering the CDPH clinics in Woodlawn and Auburn Gresham communities in Chicago in order to provide a wider range of medical services to the residents of these communities. As a result of this, larger varieties of healthcare services have been available for mental patients along with improved specialized services. In July 2012, Human Resources Development Institute (HRDI) took the responsibility of the existing clinic in Auburn Gresham neighbourhood in order to provide a comprehensive treatment to the entire community for those who are suffering from chronic mental illness along with substance abuse disorder. Also, in partnership with Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, CDPH is investing on programs to provide medical services to Chicago youth and families. The goal is to encompass thousands of children and their families who are affected by mental health diseases with the goal to adopt preventive measures and early intervention (CDPH, 2014). According to a 2012 proposal introduced by Chicago HRDI will be provided the former space of Auburn Gresham Mental Health facility to impart a broad range of health services to the mentally ill people of different communities. A part of the $500,000 investment made by CDPH was used for expanding mental health services to the residents of Auburn Gresham community. In this way, Chicago is focusing on spreading its mental healthcare facilities to all parts of the city (CDPH, 2012).
Owing to the large number of individuals suffering from mental disorders in America, the cost of medical services for these people is staggering as it is estimated that the cost of mental health services comprises of 15 percent of costs of all diseases. However, records have shown that a large number of mentally ill people cannot afford medical services or deliberately do not seek medical help for the fear of getting ostracized and discriminated by the society. About 2013 and 2018 in the era, the state of Illinois will concentrate on enhancing and increasing the number of cost-effective medical care services to all individuals who are suffering from any kind of mental illness. Such endeavour can be a challenge to the state for three major environmental changes. First, there has been a significant drop in investments in the context of administration and delivery costs of mental health services. In fact, investments have reduced by 18 percent from the year 2008 to 2012 (IDHS, 2013, p.1). In order to make use of declining resources, the Mental Health Division of Illinois Department of Health Services (IDHS) has been restricting the availability of services to mentally ill people without Medicaid. Second, Illinois is emphasizing on making strategies to encourage mentally ill people to integrate within their respective communities. The idea is to enforce rights so that people with variable levels of mental illness can subscribe to appropriate community based medical services. Finally, Illinois is working towards eliminating all kinds of obstacles that make it difficult for mentally ill patients to live in their communities (IDHS, 2013, p.1). One major problem faced by the state of Illinois is paucity of electronic health record (EHR) systems in agencies as a result of which it is difficult to garner data on consistent basis and share the data between different agencies. This hinders the act of providing comprehensive medical services to adults and children suffering from mental illness. Another disadvantage that exists in Illinois is that medical services are divided for adults and children. This adds to the cost of medical treatment for the mentally ill patients since there is possibility of duplicate services and interruptions in care. Moreover, as already stated, reduced funding for medical resources hinders the smooth flow of services to the mentally ill patients. The final challenge that is faced by Illinois is the availability of workforce for providing healthcare services to the mentally ill people. In America, this number of available workers is not adequate to meet the growing demand of mental health services. Illinois is focusing on collaboration with educational institutes so as to provide graduate and training programs in psychology and social work to encourage more people to join healthcare workforce (IDHS, 2013, pp.10-11). Griffin, McClelland, Holzberg, Stolbach, Maj and Kisiel (2012) have studied more than 14,000 child welfare clinics in Illinois to understand the importance of assessing the impact of trauma on mentally ill children. Based on their study, Griffin et al. have suggested that mental assessment of all youth should include assessment of impacts of traumatic events, and treatment strategies should be designed based on the trauma assessments. They have also suggested that the first step of every clinician should be to focus on the impact of traumatic events before examining the mental condition of the young patient. Kim, Szigethy and Meltzer-Brody (2013) have parental factors are strong contributors towards chronic mental illness in children. Parents with mental problem can cause both mental and physical problems in children. Therefore, providing proper treatment to mentally ill parents can develop resilience in children and reduce the possibility of mental illness.
- CDC (2013) Children’s Mental Health – New Report, CDC, retrieved on February 4, 2015 from: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/ChildrensMentalHealth/
- CDPH (2012) City continues efforts to expand access to mental health services across Chicago, Chicago Department of Public Health, retrieved on February 5, 2015 from: http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/mayor/Press%20Room/Press%20Releases/2012/July/7.25.12IntroMentalHealthAccess.pdf
- CDPH (2014) Mental Health Services Report, Chicago Department of Public Health, retrieved on February 4, 2015 from: http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/ depts/cdph/clinical_care_and_more/CDPH_MHRepJun112014.pdf
- Chabra, A., Chavez, G.F. & Harris, E.S. (1999) Mental Illness in Elementary-School-Aged Children. Western Journal of Medicine, 170(1), 28-34
- Griffin, G. et al. (2012) Addressing the Impact of Trauma Before Diagnosing Mental Illness in Child Welfare. Child Welfare, 90(6), 69-89
- IDHS (2013) Illinois Mental Health 2013-2018 Strategic Plan, Illinois Department of Health Service, retrieved on February 5, 2015 from: http://www.dhs.state.il.us/ onenetlibrary/27897/documents/mental%20health/marysmith/strategicplan/mentalhealthservicesfiveyearstrategicplan2013.pdf
- Kim, S.R., Szigethy, E. & Meltzer-Brody, S. (2013) Supporting the Mental Health of Children by Treating Mental Illness in Parents. Psychiatric Annals, 43(12), 534-537
- Mayo Clinic Staff (2012) Mental Illness in Children: Know the Signs, Mayo Clinic, retrieved on February 4, 2015 from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/childrens-health/in-depth/mental-illness-in-children/art-20046577
- Taylor, E.H. (1998) Advances in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Children with Serious Mental Illness. Child Welfare, 77(3), 311-332
- Wilkinson, A.P. (2012) Mental Illness in Children. Pediatrics for Parents, 28(1&2), 12-14