Jordan’s enthusiasm for soccer was obvious to everyone the 10-year-old encountered. She lived and breathed the sport. But her zeal for the game started to decrease, and she quit the team. She now prefers her bedroom to the soccer field.
Danny’s grades started to slip several months ago. His teacher observed that the 15-year-old appeared restless, didn’t follow instructions, and was making careless mistakes.
Jordan’s loss of interest and Danny’s inattention could be considered typical behavior among children and teens. Their behaviors, however, had become problematic and persistent, and were impacting their daily life and activities. They were warning signs of a mental illness. One in five children and adolescents in America suffers from a mental illness at some point during this stage of life.
“Development and maturation continue throughout life, but unfold the fastest during childhood and adolescence. A mental disorder can impede the dramatic, rapid changes in physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development that occur at this time,” says Bart Mongiello, LCSW, Director of Christian Health Care Counseling Center (CHCCC).
Among the most commonly diagnosed in children and adolescents are attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders.
“Fortunately, effective treatment is available,” Mr. Mongiello says. “The first step is proper diagnosis.”
Rapid developmental changes accompanying childhood and adolescence may present diagnostic challenges, as can the fact that symptoms can be characteristic of normal development. Mental-health professionals, therefore, look at a child’s symptoms in relation to his/her age and in the context of family, peer, and school relationships; physical environment; and digression from normal development. Also part of the assessment is information gathered from parents, teachers, and pediatricians.
To help parents and their children feel more comfortable, CHCCC recently unveiled a designated child and adolescent area.
“Children, especially, need space to play during an appointment, and adolescents like privacy while waiting,” Mr. Mongiello says. “Our new area is beautiful and large, and offers privacy, safety, and a gentle, caring setting. There’s a new waiting room, reception desk, and play room for children.”
Last year at CHCCC, more than 350 children and adolescents were treated, totaling 3,219 visits. Individualized treatment is provided by a team of psychiatrists and therapists, and can include therapy, medications, or combination of both. Therapy options include psychotherapy, which involves youngsters working with mental-health professionals on their thoughts, feelings, and behavior; cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps turn negative behaviors into positive ones; and family therapy. When symptoms warrant or when therapy alone isn’t effective, medication may be necessary.
Length of treatment is based upon the youngster, his/her specific disorder, and progress. The CHCCC staff is uniquely positioned to incorporate faith into treatment, when requested. Some children respond to short-term treatment, while others may need a more long-term program. In all cases, the earlier the treatment, the better the outcome.
“Children are immensely resilient. They’re a population that tends to have very good outcomes,” Mr. Mongiello says. “Our staff continues to develop advanced therapeutic techniques and clinical interventions to benefit the families we work with.”
Christian Health Care Counseling Center treats individuals of all ages. For more information, call Karen Hockstein at (201) 848-4463, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit ChristianHealthCare.org.