Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Children with Mental Illness

Maybe I am more aware of kids having mental and physical issues because I meet so many families dealing with these issues, but I hope I wouldn't judge a parent because their child is acting up. I would feel bad for them because I have been there! I can totally relate to being embarrassed and frustrated with my kids. I encourage you not to look down on a parent when a child is acting up. Instead, do what you can to help-even if that just means making sure your kids aren't staring. I feel really sad for the mom in this article.

FROM NBC: We tend to think of mental illness as an adult problem, but the truth is many children are falling victim. About one in five kids suffers from a mental disorder, but the symptoms are often missed or mistaken for something else.
The terrible twos took on new meaning for some parents, whose toddler seemed out of control.

Heather Johnson, Mom:"He was the one who would go 4, 5 days no sleep...absolutely none."
His older brother and sister, also prone to fits of rage. Eddie Johnson, Father: "A lot worse than a normal child throwing a fit, and it would last for hours and hours and hours." Heather Johnson, Mom: "The 8-year old can go anywhere from punching a hole in the wall, beating up her brothers and sisters." And nothing the parents did, from punishing the kids to rewarding them seemed to help until they turned to this man.

Dr. Mwenda Yasa is a psychiatrist. He diagnosed all three children with bipolar disorder, once thought to affect only adults. Dr. Mwenda Yasa, psychiatrist: "What we're finding now is mental illness can be sporadic. It can happen to anybody, in any of us. It doesn't even have to have the genes for it."
It's a growing awareness that even young children can suffer depression, anxiety, even schizophrenia.

Melissa Henry, Mom: "I asked if he could be hospitalized at 3 years old."
Melissa Henry has been dealing with her son's mental illness since he was a baby. While other children learned to crawl and explore, Melissa Henry, Mother:" "He wanted to throw things at people, and he wanted to hit them."

As Christopher got bigger, so did his aggression, even hurting family pets.
Melissa Henry, Mother: "Yeah, we had a hermit crab, and he pulled it out of the shell and cut it into about 16 pieces." What she suspected was antisocial, doctors and teachers often blamed on bad parenting. Now at the age of 8 and under the care of Dr. Yasa, Christopher has been hospitalized since November for psychotic behavior. Dr. Mwenda Yasa, Psychiatrist: "He had done things like almost run in front of cars, you know verbalizing things about wanting to harm himself, wanted to kill his mom. Things you don't hear from an 8 year old boy."

"Clearly that kind of violent behavior is a warning sign the child needs professional help, but other red flags are easily overlooked, afterall, every kid acts withdrawn from time to time or throws a fit. When is that considered a symptom of mental illness."
Experts say look for behavior that's unusually intense or frequent, inappropriate for a child's age, and affecting his school work and friendships. In the case of the Johnsons, all three children were put on daily medication.

That was two years ago.
Dr. Mwenda Yasa, Psychiatrist: "The youngest one wasn't even talking. now he's talking and more social. she's doing a lot better in school, able to get good grades." But using drugs on kids is still controversial. for these parents, it was a lifesaver. Heather Johnson, Mom: "We went from not being able to go out in public at whatsoever to being able to go out in public now." Eddie Johnson, Father: "It's not going to get better on its own. they don't outgrow it. it's a lifetime deal." Doctors say the earlier mental illness sets in, the worse its prognosis.

As for Christopher Henry, there's no word when he'll get to come home again.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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