By Moisés Barón, Ph.D.
As we get settled into this New Year, I’m reminded of the “New Beginnings” created for so many who are finding the support + help they need here at San Diego Center for Children. As I hear about the struggles of the children and teens that come to our care, and I see how they can flourish with the right help, I can’t help but become more aware of the importance of timing.
So, what is my “New Year’s Advice” for any parent, caregiver, teacher – or other influencer in a child’s life?
Trust yourself. Listen to your instincts. You know your children, and if you are concerned with your child or teen’s behavior in social, family or educational settings, it is critical to seek out the right help and support without delay.
We know that awareness, early identification and the appropriate treatment and support can truly create New Beginnings for those struggling with mental, emotional or behavioral disorders. But so many parents, when faced with such issues, don’t know what to do, or who to turn to for help. That’s why, one of our primary goals for 2015 is to help parents (and other caretakers) recognize the signs and empower them to find the help their child needs.
In fact, as a community, it’s important for all of us to recognize mental, emotional and behavioral disorders early on. Such disorders are a public health concern for several reasons. For one, the individual is not the only one suffering. The stress and confusion of how to handle the behaviors puts strain on families and those around them as well. When left untreated, emotional and behavioral disorders also limit ability for children to reach full potential in social and educational achievement, which creates an overall suboptimal functioning throughout life.
And beyond the loss of quality of life, these factors also impose heavy costs on society. The actual costs to communities are usually hidden because instead of taking place in mental health settings they manifest themselves in other systems of care such as education, health care, child- welfare and/or the justice system. Some estimates suggest the annual, nation-wide costs are as high as $247 billion. But the possible savings that prevention and early detection can provide are significant. Some estimates relay that $1 spent on prevention could save $7 in costs associated with trying to solve the problem later.
Delay on getting kids the help they need early on not only hurts the child and the family but our community as a whole. That’s why all of us here at the Center are so passionate about the opening of our Family Wellness Center this April. You will be hearing more about the special services offered in the upcoming months. It’s a great first step for families struggling with a child or adolescent with emotional or behavioral disorders to get help, and a critical service needed for so many families in need of guidance and support.