When random surveys are taken of what worries people the most, the issue that keeps rising to the top of the pile is hooliganism and knife-wielding young people. When you look at police case-studies of the perpetrators of such youth crime, the same family scenario constantly surfaces: neglect, a missing parent or two, a family background lacking in essential ‘tough love' guidelines etc. etc. All of these things, if left unaddressed, can leave children with burgeoning mental health issues that could have been avoided.
Foster parents, who know only too-well about dealing with childhood disruption, often say that they wish mental health services were available to all. It's ironic that they have better access to such services than is available to most parents. It seems that if you're in the system, it's easier to get help, whereas parents are often out there on their own. Foster parents can qualify for remedial services in the home, which involves home visitations from mental health professionals. And, of course, the professional sees a better picture of the family situation.
Many foster parents will cite children who have come to them "wounded". They say that counsellors they have worked with have been very good, but there are just not many people who specialize in children. You can't treat a child as an adult.
Children with unresolved mental health issues often misbehave because it's their way of surviving. Adult counsellors don't always look at it that way. If issues aren't being addressed in such children, it becomes quite frightening as the bad behaviour continues, steadily getting worse.
What is needed are more special classes which offer parents and caregivers of children with mental illness information about mental illnesses and brain disorders and provide an opportunity for sharing ideas. Very dedicated parents, who often feel frustrated at the apparent lack of mental health programmes for young people in their area say they would be prepared to travel long distances to find special clinics.
It is clear that youths with psychiatric concerns that are not being addressed are at risk of developing substance abuse/dependency problems. It is important, therefore that the system treats the two separately.
There are many who believe that additional mental health services are especially needed at schools, where children could be treated in context with others. One of the things that is well-known is that such children will not do well academically. And, they are the children who are at risk of growing into adults who are unemployable and who may develop criminal or delinquent behaviour. Either way, they can become a burden on society.
In the words of one health care professional: "it takes 13 years to make a good juvenile delinquent."
The whole problem is based on a system which just isn't set up to address these issues early enough.
As with everything else in today's world, too many people are content to let problems drift, hoping - like Mr. Micawber - that ‘something will turn up'. With children who are showing signs of problems early, this just isn't good enough. No longer are we living in a Dickensian world. Address the issues now, and tomorrow's problems may disappear.