Columbus agencies take a stand against mental illness in children, teens

Columbus agencies take a stand against mental illness in children, teens

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Understanding a child's behavior can be difficult, especially if they have an undiagnosed mental health disorder.

Thursday is National Children Mental Heath Awareness Day, and Muscogee County School District officials are making sure teachers and parents know where to go for help if their child has a mental illness.

One in five children between the ages of 13 to 18 have or will have a serious mental illness.

Those numbers are disturbing, and Muscogee County School District officials are helping to decrease those problems.

"Many of our students or young people are experiencing some mental health issues. It's not always clinical sometimes, it's environmentally induced or it could be stress," said Courtney Lamar, School Mental Health Coordinator for Project AWARE.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, around 20 percent of children suffer from some form of mental illness by the time they reach 13. For local advocates, that percentage is too high.

So Project AWARE and other Columbus agencies are working with parents to detect signs of a mental problem with their child.

"Because there is so many issues that parents and other adults are trying to manage in life and this is just one of many but we at Project AWARE are really trying to highlight mental health. And encourage parents to support children, the importance of a child's mental stability," said Lamar.

Parents don't have to handle a child's mental health on their own. Teachers also have a responsibility by noticing if a child is sad, withdrawn or feeling overwhelmed.

"It's not just something that's found in Muscogee County School District. It's something that's found across the nation and so with that, education is key. You need to be educated on mental illness just like any other illness. You get the support that you need for it and then you can start to experience wellness," said Lamar.

Teachers will also be trained to help students recognize if they need help and who to go to within the school district.

Mental illnesses include depression, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder  (PTSD) and ADHD.

You can find Project AWARE on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

They are offering an eight hour training certification course which teaches participants a five-step action plan to assess a child's mental state.

During this course, participants will build an understanding of the importance of early intervention and learn how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge.

This is a free class, and you can register by calling (706) 748-3292.

The first session is a two day class scheduled for June 15 and June 16 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Session two will be completed in one day scheduled for July 7 from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

All sessions will be held at the Goodwill Career Center located at 2601 Cross Country Drive, Building A in Columbus.

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