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Early Intervention Is Key Following Sandy Hook Tragedy

From Allsup Blog by Jessica Cruz, MPA/HS, executive director, National Alliance on Mental Illness-California

In the wake of the tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the National Alliance on Mental Illness-California sends its deepest thoughts and prayers to the survivors, families and the community.

It is a time for understanding that we must intervene earlier, and we must ensure that essential mental health services and treatment are available at the earliest stages.

We must demand ease of access to mental health professionals, earlier and more assessable treatment, and access to effective treatments and strategies.

Millions of Americans face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness or caring for a family member that is suffering. It can be overwhelming.

The reality is that when families get support from many directions and programs, that outcomes in all areas are improved.

Mental illness exists in every state, city and neighborhood in the United States.

One in four adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year. That’s nearly 60 million Americans. One in 10 children lives with a serious mental or emotional disorder. Yet less than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a diagnosed disorder receive mental health care.

The “What Families Can Do” fact sheet, provided by NAMI, lists warning signs for parents. They include:

Acting withdrawn, sad or overly anxious.
Extreme difficulty interacting with friends and/or siblings.
Substantial mood swings.
Persistent drop in school performance.
Change in sleeping and/or eating patterns.
Increased or persistent use of alcohol or drugs.
Persistent aggressive behavior.
Threats to self or others.
Hallucinations, paranoia or delusion.
Other sudden or extreme changes.
If a mental health problem is suspected:

Talk with a pediatrician.
Get a referral to a mental health specialist.
Work with the school.
Connect with other families who have experienced or are facing similar challenges.
Mental illness can be treated successfully. The first step is to get professional evaluation and, if appropriate, a diagnosis. Parents can then work to get the most effective treatment, supports and services available.

It is essential that we all remember that if you need help or if you know someone who needs help, that you contact your local NAMI. To find your local affiliate view our website at http://www.namicalifornia.org/.

NAMI California is a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI offers free information, support and education programs for families, individuals and communities. NAMI and its grassroots volunteers advocate for research, treatment and services and work every day to raise awareness and build communities of hope for all of those in need.

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