Mental Health Issues Are Real, Even For Kids
One in five children, nearly 15 million nationally, face mental health issues. In Orange County alone, mental illness affects 150,000 kids. Warning signs such as changes in eating or sleeping habits, self-doubt, anxiety, depression or emotional issues at school are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
Thanks to the efforts of celebrities and other high-profile citizens, awareness of mental health issues in general and among children in particular is growing. First Lady Michelle Obama’s organization Change Direction focuses on identifying the five most prevalent warning signs of mental illness in children and how to address them. The Duchess of Cambridge’s Young Minds Matter shines light on children who have a mental illness. Other celebrities, including the late, Patty Duke, have opened up about their own struggles, further lifting the stigma of mental illnesses.
Although these campaigns are helping, so many children are still suffering in silence. If a child needed treatment for a heart condition or diabetes, there would never be a question as to providing the necessary medical care. In fact, preventative treatment is often provided and effective for stabilizing and/or avoiding a recurrence of the physical symptoms. Unfortunately, this is often not the case with mental health disorders.
Accurate mental health diagnosis and readily available Evidence-Based Treatment is vital and effective for many children with mental health conditions. They move forward in life with a better chance for a happy and productive life. However, the majority of children with mental health symptoms go untreated. Although early intervention and preventative strategies empower these at-risk children with the skills they need to mitigate symptoms before they become a full blown mental health crisis, funding for preventative mental health intervention is rare. Catching emotional and behavioral problems early, assessing the root cause, and providing timely treatment is not only better for the child, but saves time and resources so we are able to help more children in the long run.
– Dr. Lorry Leigh Belhumeur, CEO, Western Youth Services
One Door™ to Remove the Invisible Barrier of Mental Illness
WYS is the hub of outpatient mental health care and wellness solutions in Orange County, California. For over 40 years, WYS has been providing integrated services and programs that empower children, families and communities to succeed. It is often the people in the community who work directly with children that can identify a concern early on. WYS works closely with schools and youth serving organizations that face the full range of challenges brought forth by a child’s behavioral and emotional circumstances. Collaborating with these agencies has resulted in minimizing issues and creating new pathways for healing.
For over 40 yrs @WesternYouthOC has been the hub of outpatient #mentalhealth care/wellness in #OC iheartOC – click to TWEET
Mental Health issues often create an invisible barrier and keep a child from living an enriching life with family, friendships and active participation in school. In an effort to break down these barriers, WYS has created its unique One Door™ model. Enter the door of any WYS location and receive a comprehensive assessment and the individualized treatment plan that is based on identifying the root cause of the issue, decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors to ensure that kids and their families receive the care they need.
Evidence Based Treatment
With offices throughout the county and an expert team of mental health professionals specializing in working with youth and their families, WYS provides comprehensive emotional and mental healthcare services from early intervention and preventative solutions to safety net services for at-risk kids that have serious mental health concerns.
In a recent survey, 98% of 174 WYS clients surveyed stated that they were satisfied with the treatment that their child received and the results were positive. The focus group included children of all ages, diagnoses, and at various stages of treatment.
WYS is expanding the ability to help more clients by providing training for over 50 Master’s level interns and students per year.
Leading the Pack: Dr. Lorry Leigh Belhumeur, CEO of WYS
For the past 15 years, Lorry Leigh Belhumeur, Ph.D. has served as the CEO of WYS. Because of her dedication and passion WYS is working to break the stigma around mental health and to address the needs of at-risk children through providing solutions for the complex range of mental health concerns in Orange County. Some of the solutions provided by WYS are:
- Crisis Intervention
- Case Management
- Individual Therapy
- Play Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Parenting Classes & Education
- Specialized services
Lorry is a Licensed Psychologist who received her Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles and is a member of the California Psychological Association. Lorry’s childhood and adolescent experiences led her to her current career and serve as her inspiration to help the youth and the families of Orange County.
This year, the California State Senate honored Lorry with the Mental Health Association Community Service Award, recognizing her dedication and service to the Orange County community.
“We’re all on the same page doing what’s good for kids”
– WYS Collaborative Partner
WYS Builds Trust, Advocacy, and Solutions
In addition to academic requirements, schools in Orange County are increasingly called upon to handle their students’ social and physical needs, stretching badly needed resources beyond capacity. WYS collaborates with school districts in Orange County by providing their progressive school-based services program. Their involvement has eased the burden on teachers and administrators and extended support and proactive care to at-risk children. Collaborative services such as these were not an option in the past. WYS and the school leadership have worked together to become advocates for the students and create an enriching, safe, and healing environment. The positive impact is significant and allows educators to focus on what they do best… teaching.
WYS makes a special effort to empower teachers and school administrators to identify and help troubled students. While in partnership with a local school, WYS was called in to work with a student that was ‘acting out’ in class and labeled as disruptive. After a thorough assessment, WYS counselors uncovered that he had a seizure disorder. It was a neurological condition, not a mental illness that was causing the change in behavior. With proper diagnosis this student received the medical care he needed and the disruptive behavior stopped.
It’s not only happening in schools. A governmental agency representative reached out to their partner, WYS, to search deeper than they could after a 5-year-old boy was removed from his fifth foster home placement. The complaints from the families were that he was not listening, he was unable to follow instructions, integration with the family was not occurring, and it was stressful for the entire family. WYS assessed the child and the diagnosis showed that he was hearing impaired, he could not follow instruction because he could not hear what was expected of him. It was discovered through our comprehensive assessment that the boy had learned to lip-read, so when instructions were given face to face, he followed them. When his back was turned, he was unable to follow directions because he couldn’t hear them. He was referred to an audiologist for care and hearing aids. The new foster family was informed of his history and were taught strategies to manage his behavior. He has been in the same home for over 3 years now.
These are examples of when the behavior presents as what appears to be mental health related, however, the root cause is attributed to physical health conditions. For the thousands of children who walk through our doors there are as many root causes as there are conditions. Trauma, bullying, unsafe conditions, fear (real and imagined), etc. often result in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and attention deficits, etc. Determination of the root cause leads us to precise treatment recommendations.
With over 50 collaborative private and public partnerships with local government, schools, and other youth focused organizations in the community, WYS is uniquely positioned to step in and become change agents, to truly make a difference, offering solution based assessments and treatment plans that lead to better relationships, improved communication skills, and most importantly simply being happy.
The impact has been tremendous with more than 15,000 youth and their families served in 2015 alone, regardless of their location, what schools they attend, or their socioeconomic condition. But there are still so many children that are hurting.
In 2015 @WesternYouthOC helped more than 15K kids/families-help us help more #OC #iheartOC – click to TWEET
WYS provides services in:
- MediCal Outpatient Clinics
- Family Resource Centers
- Public and Private Schools
- Boys & Girls Clubs
- Other Community-Based Locations
“Kids get help before their behavior gets them in more trouble.”
– Orange County School Principal
It takes a village to create and maintain this level of transformation in a community. WYS is committed to moving the needle from one in five children who suffer from a mental health diagnosis to one in ten in THIS generation.