May is Mental Health Awareness Month – Families of Children with Mental Health Needs Deserve Support
To the Editor:
Parenting can be challenging at times. Parenting a child with mental health needs can be even more challenging, for a variety of reasons. Children with extraordinary needs require extraordinary parenting skills. Parents often find themselves being blamed for their children’s issues. Having a child with challenging behavior can often cause the family to isolate themselves to avoid problems in the community.
In addition, resources to assist children with mental health needs and their families are often limited and difficult to find. In Wisconsin, over 100,000 school-age children have a substantial mental health issue that limits their ability to be successful at home, in school and in the community. Yet, only about 3% of these children receive the public mental health services that they need. You might be surprised to learn that Wisconsin’s public mental health service rate ranks 49th out of 50 states.
Why should you care about this? Because helping families who have children with mental health challenges is not only the compassionate thing to do, it’s the right thing to do for our communities. Families who are supported in their community are better able to support their children and meet their needs. This results in children experiencing greater success in school, having fewer problems with truancy and delinquency, and increases the likelihood of the child growing up to be a contributing, tax-paying member of the community.
There is an organization in Wisconsin that is dedicated to helping families with children who have social, emotional or behavioral challenges – Wisconsin Family Ties (WFT). WFT is a statewide parent-run organization that provides the information, support and advocacy that families need to make real, lasting changes. Their services are free to families.
In addition to direct work with families, Wisconsin Family Ties sponsors an annual Family Fun Day at Mount Olympus Water and Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells. This event is open to all families in Wisconsin who have children with emotional, behavioral or social challenges. Tickets are at a dramatically reduced rate and include lunch. WFT also hosts the annual Children Come First Conference. This conference is the region’s largest children’s mental health conference and features speakers and workshops that are of interest to parents and professionals alike. This year’s conference will be held on November 9th and 10th, at Glacier Canyon Lodge in Wisconsin Dells. For more information about Wisconsin Family Ties or children’s mental health, call 800-422-7145 or visit WFT’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/wisconsinfamilyties.
Sincerely, Deb Ramacher
Western Wisconsin Regional Coordinator