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Article of Interest - Parenting

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Bridges4Kids LogoParental 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.


Christina 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, she said.

"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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