TULSA, Okla. — From the so-called "terrible twos," to the drama of teen angst, moodiness and tantrums can be part of growing up.
In this 2 Cares for the Community Mental Health Awareness Month story sponsored by Mindset Behavioral Health, we look at how those can also be signs that children may be suffering from anxiety, depression, or behavioral disorders.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about seventeen percent of children between the ages of two and eight are diagnosed with mental or behavioral disorders.
Jennifer Wilburn is a Child-Parent Psychotherapist with Mindset Behavioral Health.
“In Oklahoma, we know that preschool is one of the largest groups that get suspended and sent home from school and that tells us that we need to intervene early," Wilburn says.
“I never imagined when I started seeing young toddlers that they would be sent home from preschool that they would be suspended, but it is, it's a real problem.”
To evaluate the help children, Wilburn says a lot can be learned by the way they play.
“They tell us so much through their play," she says.
“It's important to pay attention to the things that they play in the way that they play, you might start seeing them act out little violent scenes or, or sad scenes, you know, little girls sometimes with their dollhouses or their dolls will be really playing out sad thematic play and boys, often with their action figures, you know, will show anger a little more readily than girls do and so they'll show some violence with that now, of course, normal boy play can, can be a little more rambunctious and you know they have action figures and play with swords, but you might start seeing them act out little violent scenes or, or sad scenes, but children often say what they feel and they'll just say 'Mommy, I don't want to be here, don't leave me' and they're clinging, or, you know, those are really important things for us to pay attention to.”
Wilburn stresses it is important for parents to participate in therapy sessions with their children, especially very young children. She said she knows they’re making progress when she hears this from parents.
“We have things to do at home with our kids now we know how to talk to them how to help them resolve some, some things on our own and it's really nice," she says as children get into their teen years they may no longer need their parents to participate.
According to the CDC, seven percent of kids between the ages of three and seventeen have a diagnosed behavior problem or diagnosed anxiety. In addition, just over three percent of children have diagnosed depression.
When it comes to getting help, the CDC reports nearly four out of five children with depression receive therapy, as do six in ten with anxiety.
However, it finds only about half the children with behavior disorders get treatment. Part of that is because there aren’t enough therapists to go around.
Wilburn says in Oklahoma, things are improving.
“I think there are a lot of waiting lists, but I will say that Oklahoma has done an amazing job with training mental health counselors for birth to five and there are more adolescent counselors," she says.
Therapy for children is available through clinics like Mindset Behavioral Health that have licensed therapists. To increase accessibility, the State Department of Education is also using Federal Relief Money to help more than 180 school districts hire school counselors or school-based mental health professionals to work with all ages of students. Parents can also ask their child’s pediatrician for a referral.
See this full story WEDNESDAY on 2 News Oklahoma at 6 p.m.
You can contact Mindset Behavioral Health:
5800 South Lewis, Suite 275
Tulsa, OK 74105
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