According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration childhood exposure to traumatic events is a major public health concern. Such exposure can have negative effects on children and adolescents that last into adulthood. These negative effects range from physical illnesses such as heart disease to mental health problems such as depression.
Fifteen years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego collaborated to conduct the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. The study identified specific "ACEs" that increase the likelihood of children developing mental health issues. These include: household substance abuse, an incarcerated family member, verbal, physical and sexual abuse, emotional and physical neglect, separated or divorced parents, living with someone who is depressed, mentally ill or suicidal, and witnessing domestic violence.
National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day (May 9) provides the opportunity to acknowledge the importance of our children's mental health and to consider ways to build their resilience.
The Mercer Island community offers an array of programs and services that support children and families and help build resiliency. These resources including after-school activities at the Boys and Girls Club, parenting classes at the Jewish Community Center, faith-based activities at the local churches, recreation through our city's Parks and Recreation department, social and emotional development curricula in the schools, and counseling and youth development (VOICE) at the City's Department of Youth and Family Services (MIYFS).
At MIYFS, licensed professional mental health counselors routinely work with youth and families at addressing ACEs. "We clearly see in our work that when kids have at least one trusted adult, can develop a sense of confidence in an area, and have a supportive community that this creates the type of resilience that leads to recovery from the impact of ACEs," says Stephen Pults, MIYFS Individual and Family Counselor.
Like physical health, mental health sometimes needs the attention of a professional. If you have concerns about your child's mental health, or would like to consult with a qualified counselor, contact the MIYFS Luther Burbank Office at 206.275.7611, http://www.mercergov.org/yfs, or the MIYFS Counselor at your child's school.
--Information from the City of Mercer Island