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Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Moody or in need of help?

The Mayo Clinic recently teamed up with several mental health organizations to publish a “toolkit” designed to help parents, teachers and health professionals better identify and help children who are suffering from mental illnesses.

“Despite well-documented levels of emotional and behavioral concerns in the nation’s youth, studies have repeatedly shown that up to 75 percent of youth with mental health disorders … are usually not identified, and youth do not receive the care they need,” says a statement on mayoclinic.com.

The disorders discussed in the toolkit include anxiety disorders, eating disorders, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar, depression and substance abuse problems.

The team — which included representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and more — created a list of “action signs” that should alert parents, educators and others that a child may need help. The idea is to help people tell when a child’s behavior indicates a mental health problem — not just fleeting moodiness or a typical behavioral phase.

The list of “action signs” includes:

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks
  • Seriously trying to harm or kill yourself, or making plans to do so
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
  • Invovlement in many fights, using a weapon, or wanting to badly hurt others
  • Severe out-of-control behavior that can hurt yourself or others
  • Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to make yourself lose weight
  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of your daily activities
  • Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still that puts you in physical danger or causes school failure
  • Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Drastic changes in your behavior or personality

To read much more about the checklist, how to help, and how different mental health problems can manifest in children, visit the website of The Reach Institute (which also was involved in the “Action Signs” project), at thereachinstitute.org/files/documents/action-signs-toolkit-final.pdf

 

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