Stigma is just one of the barriers to treatment for families with a child contending with a mental, emotional or behavioral challenge. But there are other barriers, like access to mental health care, family finances, fear of discrimination or insurance gaps, which may affect a family’s ability to get help. And with one in two of all lifetime mental health diagnoses beginning by age 14, there’s a tremendous incentive to provide care as early as possible. A child who goes untreated may experience difficulties at home, at school and in the community.
Fifty percent of children and adolescents who don’t get treatment drop out of high school. These kids are also twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and one in two of them will be incarcerated. The sad reality is that, left untreated, a child with a mental illness may already be off course for their life journey by age 14. Instead of working with mental health professionals to address their illness and positively affect their social functioning, their life becomes one challenge after another. In addition to the emotional cost to the family, there are real costs to the community. But there is also hope.
The cost to treat a child’s mental illness is actually less than the cost of not providing treatment.
How so? Untreated, a child struggling with a mental illness may affect community costs by emergency room visits, juvenile justice actions and school disruption. But by providing treatment to the one in five kids struggling with a mental illness, there’s a significant opportunity to reduce a financial burden on the community. And as this article in the Psych Central Newsletter reports, the treatment of mental illness saves tax dollars!
So what can you do? The first step is to share the news that there is hope, and help! The more people who are informed and engaged, the more kids who will receive treatment. Doing nothing is too expensive – for everyone!