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Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

I just wanted to post a link to a post written by a woman called Danni Miller that includes an article by Jessica Rowe, who has spoken publically about her own experiences with postnatal depression. I think it’s beautifully written, and honest, and is worth a read here.

If you are at all concerned about your own mental health, or that of someone close to you, please talk to your doctor. More information on PND can be found at justspeakup.com.au

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The Government announced in last week’s Budget a plan to screen children at the age of three for not only physical health, but also emotional health. It’s part of a bigger package of spending on the prevention and early intervention of mental illness in infants and children.

Can we even diagnose mental illness in three year olds? And is it a good use of money?

Prevention and Early Intervention

 We as a community readily accept the concepts of prevention and early intervention in physical health. To prevent illness, we immunise our children. We try to detect diseases at an early stage by screening babies in utero and at birth, and as adults we go for cervical smears and mammograms.

Like physical illness, mental illness causes serious suffering, disability and even death. Depression alone will affect 20% of adults, and according to the World Health Organisation is the leading global cause of years of health lost to disease. Mental illness encompasses more than depression: when we add in anxiety, psychosis, and substance abuse the impact is staggering.

We can’t immunise against mental illness, but we can detect problems at an early stage and act on them.

Do mental health problems in young children even exist?

Yes, without a doubt. Studies show that 11%-18% of children under two have a mental health disorder. They don’t present in the same way as adults, but emotional and behavioural disturbances are common.

A quarter of people with a mental disorder experienced their first episode before the age of 12, and almost two-thirds before the age of 21.

Why should we screen for mental health problems in young children?

We can reliably diagnose many common disorders in young children. We know that emotional and behavioural disorders in childhood seriously harm a child’s development. A child who is displaying problems even before going to school will not be able to make friends, or learn, or develop a healthy self esteem. Problems will continue throughout adolescence and early adulthood. They will lack social and educational protective factors and be far more vulnerable to mental illness and substance abuse later in life.

Children with mental health issues are suffering, as are their families.

They are children. We need to do something.

Could the money be better used elsewhere?

 It’s a harsh reality that Australia has a limited budget and decisions must be made about where each health dollar is spent for the maximum impact. There is $11 million (over 5 years) earmarked for this project: a small amount in the grand scheme of things, really.

Children with emotional difficulties grow into adults with emotional difficulties and mental illness. There comes a time when we need to try to break the cycle. We can keep spending all the money on those people who have already developed mental illnesses, or we can try to allocate some of the budget to child and adolescent mental health, and make sure our children grow into healthy, resilient teenagers, adults, and parents.

Prevention is better than cure

There is no doubt that the entire public mental health system needs more money. Ideally, all Australians with mental health issues would be promptly assessed and have optimal access to community and hospital resources, regardless of their age, location or diagnosis.

But with the limited resources that we have, isn’t prevention better than cure? By intervening early in life, we can make sure that as our children grow up, the rates of mental illness in adults are reduced. Investing in the mental health of our young children now means that we can make a step towards improving the mental health of our adolescents, adults, and their own children.

 

References

 http://www.budget.gov.au/2011-12/content/glossy/health/html/health_overview_02.htm

 The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists: Report from the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Prevention and early intervention of mental illness in infants, children and adolescents: Planning strategies for Australia and New Zealand, 2010

 

 

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This is a bit of an aside post, as it’s not to do with parenting. I am pleased to report that Prof. Patrick McGorry has been awarded the title of ‘Australian of the Year’. He is a psychiatrist who has done heaps of work in youth mental health. He has also worked with refugees and has made a public comment today about the fact that keeping asylum seekers in detention is a recipe for mental health problems. I worked for a while for an agency who treated torture and trauma survivors (refugees) and  I was horrified at what these people had been through pre-migration, and just as horrified at what had happened to them when they arrived here, so I am pleased that he has made such a comment at a time when the newspapers will jump on it.

Psychiatrists rarely are in the media, as mentally ill people are still unfortunately stigmatised and judged in our community. We hear about doctors who treat burns, cure cancer and cut out brain tumours, but not psychiatrists. I hope that Prof. McGorry’s award helps to publicise mental health issues, particularly in young people.

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