Children with mental health problems now 'epidemic'

Expert: 1 in 5 in the U.S.; 80,000 in Bexar County

Children with mental health problems have reached “epidemic” levels -- an estimated one in the five in the U.S., 80,000 in Bexar County alone -- according to findings presented at a gathering of community leaders Thursday.

“Eighty percent of those who are suffering do not receive treatment mainly due to stigma and cost,” said Rebecca Helterbrand, vice president of marketing and resource development at Clarity Child Guidance Center of San Antonio, the only nonprofit in South Texas providing mental health treatment for children 17 or younger.

Helterbrand said as a result, the center has launched its One in Five Minds campaign to help more families get help.

She said its website offers links to resources for parents, caregivers or anyone worried about a child needing emotional help.

“It’s a tough, tough issue,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, since many do not want to admit a problem exists.

Wolff said they often believe there’s anything wrong with their kid.

But, he said, “You need to check it out.”

Joaquin Castro, who represents the 20th Congressional district, said, “There’s fear among the parents that people are going to think that their child is crazy, that they somehow failed as parents, but that’s not true at all.”

Helterbrand said they need to understand children suffering from mental issues are no different than a child suffering from a physical ailment.

Castro said teachers also are in a position to see what’s happening, if they can.

“It’s much harder to discern that somebody is going through emotional trauma and so we’ve got to do a better job of that.”

Wolff said he is critical of those opposing federal expansion of Medicaid in Texas.

“I think the Governor and the folks are wrong when they say they don’t want to do it,” Wolff said.

Wolff said 25 to 30 percent of Bexar County is uninsured, many of them children.

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.


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