Mental Health Care for Kids Is Improving

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 13, 2005 | Go to article overview

Mental Health Care for Kids Is Improving


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Debra Depew For The Register-Guard

A parent remembers the first time the school calls because her child is spending too much time in the principal's office. I remember the day, and so do many other moms and dads.

We are trained to recognize chicken pox, measles and fevers, but we aren't trained to identify mental health disorders. Often the first time problems are called to our attention is when the child is introduced to the structure of the classroom.

The child doesn't raise his hand to speak. Or he gazes out the window when he should be learning addition. Or he needs to leave the room for a few minutes to reduce his frustration.

Handle this wrong, and the kid gets a Swiss-cheese education with lots of holes in it. Treat it right, as Oregon is now preparing to do, and children with mental health issues will get the help they need to be successful.

This is important, because an estimated 105,000 Oregon children require at least moderate mental health services, while another 7,000-plus experience serious mental illness.

I applaud a teacher at Cascade Middle School in the Bethel School District: Once she recognized my son's problem, she issued him a Get Out of Class Free card. It enabled the boy to leave the room up to three times a day to visit the restroom, get a drink of water or just collect himself. In the process, he learned to raise his hand to ask permission when he needed to leave the room.

If you're the parent of a child with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder, you know what it means to be talked down to by professionals. Talking to the psychiatrist or therapist can be like dealing with the auto mechanic who talks over your head, paying no attention to you even though you know the car's every quirk.

Even state officials admit that parents have sometimes been blamed for the mental illness of their children. Or that parents too often aren't included in treatment decisions, even though they're with the child all the time except during school. …

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