Chicago doctor shares how to help children with mental health challenges
CHICAGO (CBS) – Desperate for help, CBS 2 heard from a mother of a teenager with mental health challenges.
She wasn't sure what to do. Her son gets physical, even violent sometimes.
CBS 2's Lauren Victory tapped a local mental health expert for some perspective on these challenges and others. It's part of CBS 2's coverage for Mental Health Action Day.
Imagine having to call police on your own child.
That's the reality for a CBS 2 viewer who emailed us saying, "During his recent mental health episode, he trashed our home and assaulted my 70-year-old mother." Her 14-year-old has also "pulled knives on himself."
The heartbroken mother wrote, "We are afraid for him and don't feel safe."
"I really empathize with what this mother has gone through," said Dr. Tali Raviv, a child clinical psychologist at Lurie Children's Hospital.
Raviv does not treat the viewer's son, but she is very familiar with kids who struggle in similar ways.
"When there is a complex profile like that, young people often need more one-on-one assistance, or they may need a higher level of staffing to make sure that their needs are met, and that people caring for them, as well as they themselves, are safe wherever they are placed and can get better," Raviv said.
But it's taking months to find the extensive mental health treatment the viewer's son needs, according to the teen's caseworker. "Most residentials do not have available beds" or "they do not take his age group," she wrote.
Raviv isn't surprised.
"Unlike things like elective surgeries that bring money into hospitals, the type of mental health treatment which is usually much longer term, and needs more intensive types of work, doesn't reimburse very well," she said. "And so a lot of facilities are unable to stay in business."
A shortage of mental health professionals is also a problem at a time when families can't afford to be without help.
"Globally, there have been some estimates in the wake of COVID that, for example, up to 40% of young people might suffer from anxiety or depression," Raviv said.
A 2021 advisory from the U.S. surgeon general warns of "widespread" youth mental health challenges, but added, "they are treatable and often preventable."
That's part of Raviv's mission at the Center for Childhood Resilience.
"We need to focus more on prevention," she said. "You don't have to be a therapist to be therapeutic. We've all had that relationship in our lives where that teacher, or that coach, or that mentor or that pastor who was there for us when we needed it."
Here's what Raviv teaches adults:
- Ask children about their day.
- Inquire about their feelings.
- Don't swoop in and take over.
- Help kids think of ways to solve their problems.
"I don't get invited to my friend's birthday party or someone excluded me at recess, those are ways for them to learn how to cope with the challenges we're all gonna face in our lives," Raviv said.
Of course, the violent mental health challenges our viewer faces requires complex treatment. The mom Victory mentioned isn't ready to share her full story yet, but feels the system is broken.
CBS 2 felt her struggles are so important that it was worth sharing details without the mom's name or actual voice.
For more tips on helping kids with mental health struggles, visit ChildhoodResilience.org./resources.
for more features.