5 Reasons Why Kids Don’t Get Mental Health Services

Whether it’s autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, we know that rates keep rising. We also know that not nearly enough kids get the help they need. 

I’ve identified 5 barriers that make it tough for parents to get help for their kids:

Awareness: It’s important for parents to know the signs and signals of different disorders. All kids run around, may not always stay still, may not always pay attention. What’s the difference between that and warning signs of ADHD? How can you tell if a toddler is just somewhat unusual socially, versus showing early signs of autism? Early identification is critical because it is the first step of the process. Leaning on websites such as those offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health can help. But these can be tough to sort through as well. Here are two examples of blog posts I’ve written to help promote awareness:

Recognizing ADHD Symptoms in Your Child

The 7 Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder That Every Parent Should Know

Acceptance: Once a potential problem has been identified, it can be very tough for a parent to accept it. It’s natural to want it to just go away. But getting past that thinking is critical because you are the catalyst for helping your child take on the problem area.

Referral: Accepting that help is available is important – but finding that help can be challenging. You’ll need to network with your pediatrician and other professionals to get routed in the right direction. Word of mouth via other parents is always helpful because they’ve navigated the system.

Cost: You will need to be prepared to work with your insurance and your provider to get help for your kid. By “work” I mean investing time and energy and being persistent and asking everyone to be creative. It may also mean smiling a lot and being pleasant – and kicking up a storm when necessary. It’s your kid, they should get help.

Compliance: Once all these barriers have been taken on, you will find a long road ahead. It’s tough on you, it’s tough on your kids. It’s time and effort and possibly a fair amount of travel. It will take time away from other things. But it’s your kid, and the more effort you put in, the better. The one thing that sinks the process, more than anything else, is when parents and kids stop showing up.

Mental Health via Shutterstock.com


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  1. by Deb

    On February 4, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    I find this difficult to believe … is this a result of an actual study or just one psychologist’s opinion? My youngest daughter (now 21) became very lethargic at age 8. I immediately took her to a psychiatrist and will be internally grateful that he had the wisdom to do some thorough blood testing and discovered she suffers from Hypothyroidism and her number was OFF THE CHART and will always be on meds for that.

    My oldest one (now 28), I had her first grade teacher meet with me and just flat out ask “Have you considered putting her on Ritalin” …Of course I wanted more details. We had a well known Child Psychologist Phd come to school and observe. Eventually she did need meds but NOT until she almost started high school. Some simple modifications; sitting up front, some simple hand signals that only she and her teacher knew about. Interestingly enough also observed was that she was less exuberant than the boys in her class? What I experienced was the school wanting all children to conform and be the same even if it means drugging them to calm them.

    Of course there is no mention of Stigma in this article and peer pressure is a big concern of kids. As my oldest continued to grow it became more apparent that more and more was needed in addition to behavior modification/counseling. She was not put on STIMULANTS until early high school and even with tweaking the rebound period for her was terrible.

    The parents I interacted with while my children were growing up acted as diligently as we did with ours. In the end my oldest went on anti-depressants late teens and age 21 they caused her to go manic resulting in diagnosis of Bipolar. The biggest problem in her life from that point on was stigma and discrimination.

    Additionally when the article references “costs” it really does not acknowledge the vast differences in health coverage for physical versus mental health conditions.