Invisible Barriers Hold Kids Back
At Western Youth Services (WYS), we often talk about mental illness is an invisible barrier to success. Mental and behavioral health concerns are often the result of a child who has had one or more adverse experiences or trauma. The signs of trauma are not always visible, no bruises, welts, physical evidence of neglect or abuse. Many children are suffering in silence behind the wall of an invisible barrier.
There is Not Always a Clear Path
Often there are visible factors that are easy to see such as a change in eating or sleeping patterns, a once quiet child has become disruptive in class or at home, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, failing grades or missing school altogether. These are signs that something is amiss, help is needed. Often times, the external behaviors, such as disrupting class, are treated as discipline problems. Students are sent to the Principal’s office, given a Saturday school to make up work, punished or reprimanded for their behavior. The quiet child who does not make waves is sometimes overlooked, caregivers and teachers think everything is fine. There is not always a clear path to the root cause of these issues.
Perhaps they are scared or embarrassed to ask for help. Maybe they do not know any other way of life and think that is how everyone lives. Either way we strive to help them by educating their caregivers whether they be teachers, counselors, or family members and to provide a proper understanding of potential underlying causes and targeted treatment.
Evidence proves that unrecognized or untreated early childhood trauma carries over into adulthood. This can manifest into a lifetime of physical and mental illness. One in five children have a diagnosable mental health condition. In the majority of cases, the early signs of mental illness occur at the age of 18 or younger.
Preventative treatment is where we have a tremendous impact with our clients at WYS. When we can identify the range of signs of emotional distress and intervene early, before it becomes a mental health crisis we change the trajectory of a child’s life.
We look at all of the factors, address both mental health and emotional concerns in conjunction with other needs the child may have. Our goal is to help the child create a success.
It is not just about one child, there is a ripple effect, families come to us and they are hurting. Families can come to WYS through any door to any one of the clinics or partner agencies that we have throughout Orange County. Our aim is to make our services as accessible as possible regardless of ability to pay, so our families can move past the pain and break down the invisible barriers to lead fulfilled, successful and, happy lives.
It is our goal to move the needle from one in five to one in ten in THIS generation.
Lorry Leigh Belhumeur, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Western Youth Services