Seeking to treat mental illness
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That person could come in the form of a social worker or psychologist at school. The Lawrence School District has a social worker at each of its three elementary school buildings and two each at the middle and high schools. Each elementary building has a psychologist, the middle school has two and the high school has three and a part-timer, including one who speaks Spanish.
“We foster as close a relationship with our students as best we can from the superintendent to administration,” said Lawrence Superintendent Gary Schall, adding there appears to be a drop off of care after students graduate or leave school.
To combat that drop in Lawrence, Dr. Ann Pedersen, the assistant superintendent for academic affairs and principal of the Number Four School, said that the districts is proactive with its social-emotional learning curriculum that teaches students social awareness and responsible decision-making.
Also prior to graduation Pedersen said the district recommends outside counseling to the student and his or her family. “If you were a diabetic you wouldn’t deny yourself insulin,” Pedersen said, in drawing an analogy for continuation of treatment.
Dolan said that a stigma remains attached to mental illness, but screening for mental health problems should better integrated into the primary care process, and that includes parents. “If mental illness runs in the family, a parent should be on the outlook for shows of depression,” he said. “The earlier it is identified the better for treatment, which is not always medication. The parent is the best reporter.”
Mental Health by the numbers
There are currently more than 15 million children nationwide that have a psychiatric or learning disorder. Based on a 2011 survey conducted by the New York State Office of Mental Health 36,739 children (under 18-years-old) have used some form of mental health services statewide, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency room visits and support programs. There were 178,272 total clients.
Outpatient mental health services were used by 29,112 children. Out of the 4,191 total clients who used emergency care service, 986 were classified as children. The majority sought crisis intervention services. Statewide, boys 5-12 were twice as likely as girls to use mental health services.
In Nassau County, 1,105 children (under 18) used some form of mental health services out of a total of 6,073 clients. Most of the children — 792 — used outpatient services in 2011. Out of the 128 total that sought emergency care, 44 where children and the majority used crisis intervention services.
Sources: Peninsula Counseling Center, NYS Office of Mental Health