By Judy Koglin, Special to the Herald
RICHLAND -- Every Leadership Tri-Cities class completes a community project, providing some lasting benefit to a worthy cause.
Besides helping make the Tri-Cities a better place, the experience teaches class members about service and teamwork.
This year, our class has the added advantage of learning about an issue that is often overlooked but touches nearly everyone in some way.
Leadership Tri-Cities Class XVI has had the privilege of partnering with Lourdes Counseling Center to help upgrade and enhance its children's facilities in Richland.
Lourdes Children's Day Program provides a place where kids affected by various mental health disorders can receive the education, therapy, and love and attention they need.
The school is receiving a coat of paint and other repairs, along with new computers and recreational equipment. As part of the project, our class learned some eye-opening facts about children's mental health.
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we think it is important to get the word out to our community about children's mental health.
One thing we were surprised to discover was just how common mental health disorders are among children. Mental health problems affect 1 in every 5 young people at any given time, and an estimated two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not receiving the help they need.
These problems can include depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, behavior disorders, and, most frequently, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As many as 1 in 10 young people may have an anxiety disorder. At any given time, as many as 1 in 33 children may have clinical depression. For adolescents, the figure is as high as 1 in 8.
As startling as those statistics are, there is good news -- many mental illnesses are treatable, especially when caught early.
If any of our children were sick, needed glasses, had diabetes or asthma, we wouldn't think twice about contacting the appropriate medical professional and getting the necessary treatment.
It's just as important to seek and receive help for mental and emotional problems.
There are signs that may indicate a need to seek medical help. A decline in school performance can be a red flag for many mental health disorders. Other things to look for include appetite changes, sleep issues, constant worry or anxiety, repeated refusal to take part in normal activities, hyperactivity or fidgeting, persistent nightmares, persistent disobedience, aggression or hostility, frequent temper tantrums and arguments, and depression, sadness or irritability.
When mental health problems are detected and treated early, the probability of a complete recovery is greatly increased.
Early detection and treatment enables children and adolescents to succeed in school, to develop socially and to fully experience the developmental opportunities of childhood, while preventing the loss of critical developmental years that cannot be recovered.
Early identification, evaluation and treatment are essential to recovery and help to minimize the long-term affects of mental disorders.
More importantly, early detection can help a child avoid unnecessary suffering.
* Judy Koglin is development director for Liberty Christian School in Richland and a member of Leadership Tri-Cities Class XVI.
More information available
For more information on mental health issues, contact the following resources:
* Lourdes Counseling Center, 509-943-9104, www.lourdeshealth.net
* 211/Washington Information Network, Dial 211
* National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org
* American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, www.aacap.org
* Crisis Response Unit, 509-783-0500
* Greater Columbia Behavioral Health, 509-735-8681, www.gcbh.org
* Nueva Esperanza Community Counseling, 509-545-6506
* Lutheran Community Services Northwest, 509-735-6446
* Catholic Family and Child Service Northwest, 509-946-4645