MILWAUKEE – In its annual report, the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health details the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children in our state, collecting data and listening to stories from parents and mental health professionals to find out what steps need to be taken to provide better support, counseling and healing.
“Children’s mental health needs were substantial before the pandemic, and these needs have only grown, especially for the most isolated and vulnerable,” said First Lady Kathy Evers.
One method that the CMOH hopes to use to understand how to better serve Wisconsin students is through the use of lived experience partners, who offer workshops and interactions to educate people on how to recognize and support those who are going through a mental health crisis. A student says it changed his life.
“My determination to step in on that fateful night changed the course of another student’s life forever, as well as mine. I was not the only person to see the disturbing messages but I was the only one to respond to them. Honestly, before my training I might have avoided the situation as well. Now I know that helping someone in a crisis is something we can all do, ”said James Hulce, Lived Experience Partner.
Another tool officials hope to support is the creation of the Mental Health Crisis Map, a pocket-sized tool with essential information to help defuse the situation quickly and safely.
“One of the best things about this card is that it empowers the voice of the youth or the person wearing it,” said Karen Katz, Chief Operating Officer, Office of Health mental child.
Data from the report shows that it takes an average of 11 years for children to receive treatment and help for mental health problems. For director Linda Hall, this, combined with the continuing shortage of mental health professionals, pushes her team to do everything in their power to find solutions.
“We know we can’t fix this problem very quickly. This will require a long-term approach to increase the number of mental health professionals. And again, that’s why we’re turning to other activities that we can engage in that will help tackle and support children’s mental health in the meantime, ”Hall said.
CMHA leaders say they understand the stigma around mental health is real, but by increasing awareness and understanding, the hope is that the conversation will only get better over time.
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