CONTACT: TOM MOORE
Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications
8788 John Pappajohn Pavilion
Iowa City IA 52242
Release: Sept. 27, 2001
Child Health Month says 'It's Okay to Ask for Help'
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Pediatricians across Iowa and the nation are emphasizing
mental health among children and adolescents this October during Child Health
Month by telling young people, "It's Okay to Ask for Help."
Eleven percent of children ages 9 to 17 have a mental health problem that
causes significant difficulties at home, in school or in the community, according
to the U.S. Surgeon General's 2000 report on "Mental Health in America."
"All too often the mental health problems of children or adolescents
go unrecognized until a teen suicide or a school shooting devastates a community,"
said Brenda Cruikshank, M.D., University of Iowa associate professor (clinical)
of pediatrics in the Children's Hospital of Iowa. "All of us face the
challenge of recognizing and promptly treating mental health disorders among
Children and teens with untreated mental health problems are more likely
to be unemployed, abuse drugs, become physically ill and serve time in prison.
"Over a period of years, the expense to society in terms of both direct
costs and lost productivity becomes astronomical," said Mary Larew, M.D.,
UI assistant professor (clinical) of pediatrics in the Children's Hospital
of Iowa. "Help for mental illness is available, and it works."
Child health specialists advise parents and teachers to talk frequently
to children and listen carefully to their responses. A child with a mental
health disorder may seem sad, tired, restless or out of sorts, or may spend
a lot of time alone and exhibit low self-esteem. Other warning signs of a
potential mental health problem include frequent outbursts of shouting, complaining
or crying, trouble performing or behaving in school, and difficulty paying
attention or concentrating on tasks such as homework. Sudden changes in eating
patterns, sleeping too much or too little, or losing interest in hobbies such
as music or sports are also possible symptoms of a mental health disorder.
Signs of drug or alcohol abuse and discussions of death or suicide should
also require immediate attention.
Child Health Month, with a focus on child mental health and its theme, "It's
Okay to Ask for Help," provides an opportunity to participate in prevention
activities. The Iowa chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics sponsored
a poster contest for students in kindergarten through 8th grade, inviting
students to create posters that discussed their feelings and how to ask caring
adults for assistance.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) established Child Health Month
in 1992. For more information, contact AAP at (800) 433-9016 or on the Web
at www.aap.org, or the Children's
Hospital of Iowa at (888) 573-5437 or online at www.uihealthcare.com.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between
the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient
care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit
UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.