The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 5, 2014

Filling critical need: Programs designed to help children, families to cope, thrive

JOHNSTOWN — What often is written off as normal teenage rebellion or adolescent misbehavior may be a symptom of deeper issues.

Nearly half of all teens experience some diagnosable mental disorder while growing up.

About 1 in 5 will have bouts with severe disorders, the National Institute of Mental Health reports.

A battalion of mental health professionals and programs stand ready to help families facing mental health crises, but the forces are stretched thin by the growing need and funding cutbacks.

“There is definitely more of a need,” said Randy Hay, administrator of Bedford-Somerset Mental Health-Mental Retardation Program.

“With the downturn of the economy, we are looking at more. There are issues in the schools that we didn’t have before, and the funding is less.”

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the most prevalent, hitting nearly 6 million children, or 10 percent of the population from the ages of 3 to 17. ADHD is nearly three times more common in boys than in girls, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Although not as common as ADHD, disorders on the autism spectrum gain a lot of attention because they can take more resources and usually require services for a lifetime.

Among the other disorder groups diagnosed in children and adolescents are mood, conduct, post-traumatic stress, eating, panic and anxiety disorders.

More serious adult mental health issues found in children include schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder.

Treatments often involve a combination of counseling and medication, said Dr. Anseruddin Mohammed, a psychiatrist with Conemaugh Counseling Services.

But parents are often the keys to helping children with behavioral health disorders, Mohammed said. Conemaugh Counseling, like virtually every program working with children and youth, stresses the importance of parental involvement with in-home services and family counseling.

“Parenting is one of the most important jobs there is, and we have absolutely no formal training for it,” Mohammed said.

“Many parents have grown up in stressed-out families. Their parents have not set a good example for them.”

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