Our children are significantly impacted by mental health concerns and deserve a chance to be successful in life. Research has found that untreated mental illness during childhood may be a risk factor for suicide, substance abuse, involvement with the correctional system, failure to complete high school, and adult psychopathology. According to the statistics, 1 in 5 children suffer from problems severe enough to cause some level of impairment. However, only about half of those children get the needed help. Among ethnic minority families, lack of mental health treatment is reportedly much higher (e.g., Kataoka, Zhang, & Wells, 2002).
What are the reasons for mental health disparities?
One of the major reasons is stigma. As a society, we often use the terms “mental illness” and “mental health” interchangeably. This may be one reason why their remains to be a huge stigma towards using mental health services. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a difference between mental illness and mental health. Mental illness is described as a condition or disorder that is characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress and impairment in functioning. On the other hand, mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes their own abilities and can cope with the daily stresses of life. Given societies ‘view towards seeking treatment it is important that we begin to distinguish between mental health and mental illness more often to decease negative views towards individuals who suffer in an effort to make people feel more open about getting help. In my own research on mental health disparities, I have found that fears about psychotherapy also prevent people from seeking help due to concerns about therapist responsiveness and negative judgments (Turner & Mills, 2013). To address these issues, it is importance for use to continue providing education to both the public and professionals to decrease barriers.
When should you get help?
Recently, the American Psychological Association developed a digital campaign to discuss that psychotherapy works. The website offers facts and information to better understand therapy and how it can be helpful. Below are more things to consider when deciding if you should seek professional help:
If your answer is “yes” to any of those question. Psychotherapy may be helpful. Remember “your health begins with mental health!”
Copyright Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D. 2014
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Dr. Turner is a licensed psychologist with expertise in behavioral pediatrics, child mental health, disruptive behavior disorders, and minority mental health. He is also certified as a National Register Health Service Psychologist.