Tuesday, April 22, 2008

300,000 Florida Children with Serious Mental Health Issues

300,000 children in Florida suffer from "serious emotional issues" says officials at Florida's Department of Children and Families.

And the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice says New nearly two thirds of the young people in Florida's juvenile justice system suffer from mental illness or substance abuse.

And experts say too often children aren't getting the care they need.
Two factors often stand in the way of them getting help. Sometimes the problems are not diagnosed. And other times the resources to treat those problems, just aren't there.

"And children either get into trouble at school. But then wind up in a detention center or in front of a judge or with the police," says Dr. Shairi Turner, the Chief Medical Director at DJJ.

John Sjostrom is a Circuit Judge and has years of experience practicing law. He says too often children wind up in court, when proper treatment could have prevented certain situations from ever happening.

"And we lose that first best opportunity to prevent people from ever entering the criminal justice system in the first place," says Sjostrom.

Behavioral issues are usually associated with boys, but that trend is changing. "As a nation we're seeing more and more girls who are getting into the juvenile justice setting because of what's felt to be more violent behavior," adds Dr. Turner.

Experts say much of that is caused by violence in the home. They say that can cause a type of post traumatic stress syndrome that causes kids to act out.

Mental health experts say other factors that contribute to behavioral problems in children is pressure to succeed, poor nutrition, television and video games.

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