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Week: 526.1 Guest: Dr. Bernard Ahrens, Director, Center for Mental Health Services Topic: Kids Mental Health Information Initiative Host: Steve Girard Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: Dr. Bernard Ahrens, director of the federal Center for Mental Health Services is our guest today....What is the goal of the new long range children's mental health study being prepared to follow up recent, more limited studies?

AHRENS: To try to make estimates of the number of children with serious emotional disturbances, and some have estimated about five percent , some nine percent, maybe up to twelve percent. We are completing a study which will try to summarize these various smaller studies to make a determination about which of the findings are consistent across sites. We know we need better information. And so, the National Institute of Mental Health has embarked on a multi-site, multi-year national program called the Uni-cap study to try to identify the numbers of children with serious emotional disturbances...their utilization of services, both within the health field as well as related fields....social services, juvenile justice system and so forth.

NEMA: Tell me about the new CMHS outreach program....

AHRENS: The Center for Mental Health Services has begun a national information initiative with the awareness that kids to have mental health problems.... these problems are real...they're painful and they can be severe... and that families and communities working together can really put children back on the road to improved mental health and to deal with their conditions. We're trying to spread the word through radio, through television, through local newspapers. We're also trying to spread the word to communities about what they can do. This national information initiative goes along in partnership with a discreet grant program that we are able to fund with Congress' appropriation of about 60 million dollars the last two years. This funds 22 sites around the country in 18 different states, about 29 communities are affected, and these are programs in which all of the resources that children need are pulled together to accomplish an improvement in their health. It is a community issue.. We know in general that issues that children with serious emotional disturbances eventually, if they're not treated, if they're not attended to early on, come in to impact a lot of other systems in our society. It is important for families to recognize that they should have the same degree of concern and awareness of mental health problems as all other health problems. Its always reasonable to consult someone...to consult the pediatrician, the doctor to get a read. If there's some concern that a person's depression is not simply the blues, especially if it persists. If there's a deterioration of functioning in school...or difficulty keeping grades up. If there's family disruption that persists.....these are all signs that should be looked at and evaluated.

NEMA: Some of these conditions, even in children, can be very dangerous...

AHRENS: It is very important to recognize that there are a number of mental health problems that can be life threatening. These include things like eating disorders, any kind of emotional problem that leads to alcohol or drug abuse... violence, and also suicide. At the Center for Mental Health Services we want to make sure, through our public initiative, through our access to information, through these demonstration programs, that we try to make sure that our youth have a chance to contribute what they can through a full, adult lifetime.

NEMA: If you or someone you know has a mental health problem, get help through your community professionals, who will use information and techniques gathered and developed with the help of the Center for Mental Health Services...and for referrals and information, call the KEN line...1-800-789-CMHS. \ I'm Steve Girard.

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Last modified: November 01, 2021