ELIZABETH –Violence in our nation’s schools has escalated since the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in April 1999, Virginia Tech in April 2007, and, most recently, in the shocking deaths in December 2012 of 20 kindergartners and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Creating programs and measures to prevent such events from occurring again has become a key discussion at the local, state and national levels. Those who work closely with children in the school setting are dedicating time and energy to developing plans of action to address this crisis.
The Trinitas Regional Medical Center Department of Behavioral Health & Psychiatry has developed a resource guide for parents and teachers as an informative supplement for those who are charged with educating and safeguarding America’s children. Available free of charge in English and Spanish, Step-Up, Take Action: When Does a Child Need Help? is being shared with educators, school boards, parent organizations and others who may be concerned that an elementary school-aged child could turn to violence or be the victim of violence.
“The prevalence of mental illness among children, and their need for mental health services, is higher than most people realize,” notes James Lape, FACHE, Senior Vice President of Behavioral Health, Psychiatry & Long-Term Care at Trinitas. “One in 10 children is diagnosed with a mental health disorder; but there are many more who are not identified and do not receive the help they need. The Institute of Medicine reports that 14 is the median age at which lifetime mental health diagnosis begins, yet symptoms can appear years earlier. Such data is a strong impetus for us to do everything we can to identify children in elementary school who are having problems in their emotional development.”
Step-Up, Take Action offers basic information to parents and teachers on the warning signs to look for in children who may be having emotional difficulties and need professional help. “As mental health professionals, we want to identify potential issues early and get kids the help they need quickly,” explains Dr. Anwar Ghali, Chairman of Psychiatry at Trinitas. “In the mental health world, such an approach to care is called ‘early intervention.’ It has been shown that when age-appropriate mental health services are provided to children who need them early on, symptoms can be reduced and tragic situations can hopefully be prevented.”
In developing the guide, mental health professionals consulted with experts in the field of mental health for children, including national research and recommendations, as well as experts closer to home at Trinitas. “We have compiled their advice for the caring adults who spend the most time with our children and who can have the most impact on keeping them safe and getting them the help they need early,” concludes James Lape.
Those interested in obtaining a copy of Step-Up, Take Action: When Does a Child Need Help? in English or Spanish may visit the Trinitas website at www.TrinitasRMC.org. Medical center officials urge those who know a child who needs help to call the Trinitas Regional Medical Center Department of Behavioral Health at 1-888-841-5564.
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