Sadly, mental health has been in the US news of late. I’m reminded that in the US legislature there is the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, which takes as its goals reducing negativism and stigma, aiding efforts to access mental health services, improving work-related productivity, and protecting veterans who have mental health problems. Although the caucus does not explicitly state child mental health as a focus of concern, it has supported awareness efforts such as National Children’s Mental Health Day.
When funds are scarce, it seems unlikely that governments will initiate programs to serve even well-documented needs such as mental-health problems of children and youth. Governements haven’t even provided such services even when funds were more plentiful. However, programs will not magically appear unless those of us who know that they are needed continue to remind legislators and other policy makers that they are needed. So, it’s as good a time as any—scarce resources or plentiful resources—to remind folks that children’s mental health issues need to be addressed. (If you require sources about that need, consult some of the references I’ve provided following this note.)
The Caucus Co-Chairs are Representatives Grace Napolitano of California and Timothy Murphy of Pennsylvania. In the previous US Congress there were many other members who participated in the caucus and upon whom citizens could therefore call for support of mental health issues; US residents can look here for a list. Direct contact with an individual representative’s office is likely to be very valuable. Here’s a direct link to the caucus’ contact-us page.
Let’s see if we can encourage these folks to stand up for the mental health of US children and youth.
Burns, B., Phillips, S., Wagner, H., Barth, R., Kolko, D., Campbell, Y., & Yandsverk, J. (2004). Mental health need and access to mental health services by youths involved with child welfare: A national survey. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 43, 960-970.
Kessler, R. C., Beglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and the age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593-602.
Knitzer, J. & Lefkowitz, J. (2006). Helping the most vulnerable infants, toddlers, and their families. New York, NY: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. (2003). Achieving the promise: Transforming mental health care in America. Final report (DHHS Pub. No. SMA-03-3832). Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.