It’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in South Carolina, and a rally at the Statehouse Wednesday tried to call attention to the size of the problem and the need for treatment. In any given year, one in five children and teens has some kind of mental health issue, yet 80 percent of them never get treatment.
15-year-old Sonny Cheeks of Spartanburg was at the rally to tell his story, since he’s been through it. He was diagnosed at age 10 with ADHD. “I could not be still in any of my classes. I was that clown. I was class clown. I just had to be jumping up and couldn’t be quiet and it got me a lot of referrals,” he says. He didn’t know how to control himself and his teachers didn’t know how to handle him, with several of them recommending that he go to an alternative school. Instead, he got therapy and was put on medication. Between the two, his grades have come up and his behavior is under control. “A lot of parents don’t really get their kids in the right programs, like some therapies or counseling or anything,” he says.
Gov. Nikki Haley was at the rally and read her proclamation making this “Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week” in the state. She says one message of the rally and the week is aimed at children who have mental health issues, that there’s nothing wrong with them; this is just a special part of them. “But we also want to remind parents don’t be in denial,” she said at the rally. “If you see it, make sure you acknowledge it. Make sure you talk to your child about it. Make sure you talk to a physician about it. And make sure that you give them help.”
According to the Federation of Families of SC, here are some of the signs parents should look for that may indicate the need for professional assistance or evaluation:
• decline in school performance
• poor grades despite strong efforts
• regular worry or anxiety
• repeated refusal to go to school or take part in normal children’s activities
• rapidly changing mood swings
• sleeping too much or too little
• feelings of worthlessness
• recurring thoughts of suicide or death
• persistent nightmares
• persistent disobedience or aggression
• frequent temper tantrums
• depression, sadness or irritability
• hyperactivity or fidgeting
If you do notice any of those and don’t know what to do next, information and referrals regarding the types of services that are available for children may be obtained from:
o Federation of Families of South Carolina: (866) 779-0402 or(803) 772-5210
o Child’s pediatrician or school counselor
o Your Community Mental Health Center www.scdmh.org
The state Department of Mental Health provides mental health services to about 28,000 children and teens every year.