Stress Leaves Mark on Kids
by Julia Bourque, North West Indiana Times, June 27, 2004
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Kids have it
rough these days.
Their parents' financial troubles are their troubles. Their
parents' marital woes are their woes.
And it's depressing them. The National Institute of Mental
Health recently reported 2.5 percent of children up to age 12
suffer from depression. Region experts said our kids are
depressed too, though no number of local children suffering from
depression is available.
With high divorce rates and many two-working-parent families,
children have lost family connections and friendships while
feeling the stress of tight finances, said Sandra Kritenbrink, a
child, adolescent and family therapist for Porter-Starke
Services in Valparaiso.
"Parents should realize that the pressures they are under are
reflected in their children," she said.
Both Kritenbrink and Diane Vojslavek, a therapist for the
Southlake Center for Mental Health in Merrillville, said most of
the young children they treat, up to age 6, suffer from
depression caused by family problems such as divorce, substance
and domestic abuse or neglect.
Lebovitz, clinical psychologist and chairwoman of the Children's
Issues Committee of the Arizona Psychological Association, isn't
surprised kids are depressed.
"Depression has always been there," she said. "Before, it was
just regarded as a phase that would some day go away."
Recent statistics merely reflect that people are now better at
recognizing depression and seeking professional help, she said.
Those statistics may be even higher.
Much of the time, children are treated as having behavior
disorders instead of depression, which is usually the underlying
problem, Kritenbrink said.
Just treating behavior problems doesn't get to the real issue,
"Oftentimes children are seen as resilient, but in fact (the
problems) become internalized. Parents need to be aware of what
is going on in their children's lives so they can tell the
difference between a behavior problem and depression," she said.
The community and government also needs to do its part, said the
U.S. surgeon general's report on mental health. The United
States needs a community health system that emphasizes early
detection, disease prevention, health promotion and universal
access to care, it said.
"... And it must include a re-invigorated approach to mental
health. There is no mental health equivalent to the federal
government's commitment to childhood immunization," it said.
"Children and families are suffering because of missed
opportunities for prevention and early identification,
fragmented services and low priorities for resources. Overriding
these problems is the issue of stigma, which continues to
surround mental illness," the report said.
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