ISSUE: CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
STATEMENT: The statistics describing the health, mental health, and safety issues affecting today's youths are concerning, yet represent a minute image of the overall of our priorities as a state. Par-ents and families still maintain the primary responsibility for ensuring healthy and safe en-vironments that are crucial to child and youth development. However, many parents and families lack adequate support systems and financial and emotional resources to carry out this task. In a rapidly changing and demanding society where children are increasingly in-fluenced by peers, media, technology, and negative public images, it is unrealistic to expect that even the average American family is capable of creating a thriving environment without any reliance on external formal and informal support systems in place. The state must re-quire minimum standards to ensure mental wellness and safety in environments including schools, childcare, child welfare and any arena that the state has authority.
ABUSED AND NEGLECTED CHILDREN
Abused and neglected children are the state's most vulnerable, and overwhelmingly impacted by the Indiana Department of Child Services. MHAI supports services that provide for mental health treatment and safety.
CHILDREN’S EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH
The prevalence of mental illness, addiction and serious emotional disorders in chil-dren and youth under age 18 is oftentimes not adequately or appropriately diag-nosed. At the same time, the efficacy of early treatment for mental illness, addiction and serious emotional disorders is proven and the benefits have been demonstrated.
Mental Health America of Indiana supports and will work to guide and create, op-portunities for systematic, standardized and regular screening of children for mental illness, addiction and serious emotional disorders and youth in any and all appropri-ate settings including but not limited to public and private schools; child welfare; ju-venile courts; and primary care settings. Any screening program must:
- ensure that only qualified personnel conduct the screening and assessment, and develop the treatment program;
- ensure that records of the screening, assessment and treatment are kept confi-dential in accordance with current privacy standards for these types of records; and
- prohibit discrimination based on the screening, assessment and treatment.
- require active parental consent
- not be used as an assessment
MHAI supports all efforts to avoid stigmatization as well as the parent’s right to opt out. Once an illness is identified, treatment must also be made available.
SECLUSION AND RESTRAINT
Each year in the Indiana, public school personnel are regularly using restraint and seclusion to control student behavior. In a survey of approximately 1351 (67%) of Indiana’s public schools by the U.S. Department of Education, Indiana schools re-ported using mechanical restraints, seclusion or physical restraints 1650 times dur-ing the for the 2009-10 school year. Thus in Indiana in every school day on average at least nine children were being subjected to the use of mechanical restraints, seclu-sion or physical restraints.
As a result of the widely recognized risks of restraint and seclusion use, Indiana passed a statewide statute and is developing regulations and policies governing the use of mechanical restraints, seclusion or physical restraint in the public school setting.
MHAI supported the legislation and is a member of the Seclusion and Restraint Commission that is developing regulations, policies and guidelines that are uniform and statewide.
Children or adults who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Children who are bullied are more likely to experience depres-sion and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood. Bullying can also lead to health complaints and de-creased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school. A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
Mental Health America continues to support legislative action and implementation to reduce bullying among children and adults.
Trauma is a near universal experience of individuals with behavioral health disor-ders. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, 55%--99% of women in substance use treatment and 85%--95% of women in the public mental health system report a history of trauma, with the abuse most commonly having occurred in childhood. An individual’s experience of trauma impacts every area of human functioning—physical, mental, behavioral, so-cial, and spiritual. The economic costs of untreated trauma-related alcohol and drug abuse alone were estimated at $161 billion in 2000. The human costs are incalcula-ble.
PRIORITY LEVEL: II