SOURCE: Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services

Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services

August 26, 2013 14:12 ET

A New School Year Can Bring Stress and Other Mental-Health Issues

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - Aug 26, 2013) - With kids nationwide either already back in school or soon to be, parents are busily charting carpool schedules and bracing for homework wars. While this can be a stressful time of year for moms and dads, it can be even more so for students. That's why Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services -- one of the largest, nonprofit, private children's mental-health and welfare agencies in Los Angeles County is working to increase awareness about signs of mental-health issues and associated action steps.

"We think it's important to remind parents that their back-to-school-to-do lists also should include paying attention to their children's mental health," says Hathaway-Sycamores' Senior Executive Vice President Debbie Manners. Manners adds that children's and adolescents' mental-health issues often go unrecognized or ignored. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • Only 20% of children with mental disorders are identified and receive mental-health services.
  • Approximately 50% of students age 14 and older who are living with a mental illness drop out of high school.

"As a means of reducing the high number of children and teens who aren't being diagnosed or treated, Hathaway-Sycamores provides on-campus, mental-health services," Manners explains. Currently, Hathaway-Sycamores provides such services -- including one-on-one, group, and family counseling -- to elementary, middle-school, and high-school students in the Alhambra, Los Angeles, and the Pasadena Unified School Districts. Hathaway-Sycamores' on-campus clinicians and youth counselors additionally help students manage stress, excel academically, as well as develop skills in relation to anger management, conflict resolution, and general coping.

Manners further notes that, "Several years ago, our clinicians noticed a significant uptick in referrals for therapeutic services among students transitioning from eighth to ninth grade. In response, Hathaway-Sycamores created a program called Fresh Start, which is held over summer break." Topics covered in the summer session include: fears related to starting high school; confidence and self-esteem; communication skills; positive peer relationships; decision-making and problem-solving skills; coping skills and managing stress; organization and study skills.

"We're the only area agency offering a program like this," says Manners, "and student participation has increased every year."

Warning Signs
Although there are many types of mental illness and symptoms can be as unique as the youngster experiencing them, the NAMI offers the following list of potential warning signs:

  • A sudden or continuous drop in school performance;
  • Persistently aggressive behavior;
  • Threatening to harm oneself or others;
  • Marked mood swings;
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, or delusions;
  • Acting very withdrawn, sad, or overly anxious;
  • Extreme difficulty interacting with other people;
  • Significant changes in sleeping or eating patterns;
  • Increased or habitual use of alcohol or drugs.

According to NAMI, the most common mental-health conditions in children are adolescents are:

  • Anxiety disorders (obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder);
  • Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder);
  • Substance-use disorders;
  • Eating disorders;
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder;
  • Autism spectrum Disorders.

Getting Help
If you're a parent who's concerned about your child's mental health, Hathaway-Sycamores suggests first talking with your pediatrician in order to rule out any physical-health conditions as a cause. If there are no physical issues, you will likely be referred to a mental-health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or social worker. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health, other resources include: community mental-health centers; hospital psychiatry departments and outpatient clinics; mental-health programs at universities or medical schools; state hospital outpatient clinics; private clinics and facilities; employee assistance programs; local medical and/or psychiatric societies.

About Hathaway-Sycamores
Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services is a community mental health agency that provides comprehensive services to more than 9,000 children and families annually through a network of facilities stretching across the greater Los Angeles area. The agency is licensed by the California Department of Social Services, certified by the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health, and accredited through The Joint Commission.

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