Your Healthy Lifestyle

Mental Health - What's Being Done 
- Part 3

Stress and Mental Health 

  Getting active is something which will help dissipate stress levels, and assist with positive mental health. The body produces chemicals during physical activity that reduce your stress level and help you to relax. Make time for fun. A break from your daily routine can help reduce daily stress. Stress related absences account for half of all sicknesses from work. 

  Prepare for stressful events by imagining yourself feeling calm and handling the situation well. Surround yourself with cheery people. Avoid stress carriers. Posttraumatic stress disorder, which causes a pattern of flashbacks and other symptoms and occurs in children who have experienced a psychologically distressing event, such as abuse, being a victim or witness of violence, or exposure to other types of trauma such as wars or natural disasters. Don't dwell on news of the crisis. Gather the information you need, then turn off the TV or radio. 

  Some behavior change following a crisis is a typical response to an extraordinary situation. Behavior changes following a crisis are generally temporary. Each person responds to crisis in different ways and moves through the crisis at his or her own pace. 

Mental Health in the Young 

  Generalized anxiety disorders cause children to demonstrate a pattern of excessive, unrealistic worry that cannot be attributed to any recent experience. Panic disorders cause terrifying "panic attacks" that include physical symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat and dizziness. Obsessive-compulsive disorders cause children to become "trapped" in a pattern of repeated thoughts and behaviors, such as counting or hand washing. Twenty percent of youths in juvenile justice facilities have a serious emotional disturbance and have a mental disorder that can be diagnosed. Up to an additional 30 percent of youths in these facilities have substance abuse disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders. 

  Child, Adolescent and Family Branch The Child, Adolescent, and Family Branch of the Federal Center for Mental Health Services promotes and ensures that the mental health needs of children and their families are met within the context of community-based systems of care. Systems of care are developed on the premise that the mental health needs of children, adolescents, and their families can be met within their home, school, and community environments.

   A study conducted by the American Journal of Psychiatry noted that anti-depressant treatment reduces overall healthcare costs by more than 70 percent. Systems of care and other community-based mental health care programs should be expanded to provide children and families with a broad range of effective services tailored to their individual needs. To ensure access to appropriate mental health services, insurance companies should provide parity in coverage with medical/surgical care for mental health services. The mission of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is to raise the standard of care and improve access to services for traumatized children, their families and communities throughout the United States. 

  School planning for disasters and the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina are part of this scheme. Recognizing and reducing anxiety in times of crisis is an important mental health initiative for dealing with stress from traumatic events. 

  Marking disaster anniversaries in the classroom is an initiative that suggests activities for teachers to use with students of different grade levels to commemorate disaster anniversaries. Questions to help children talk about a disaster are important - "open-ended" questions to encourage children to talk about their feelings and experiences following a disaster. 

  When talking doesn't seem to help, there are other methods that can help children express their feelings following a disaster. Disaster counseling provides suggestions for disaster counselors on establishing rapport and active listening.

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