Mental health illness signs and resources available

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Published: Aug. 13, 2018 at 6:30 PM CDT
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About one in five teens between the ages of 13 and 18 experiences a severe mental disorder at some point in their life.

That's according to the


"When somebody's sick, somebody's running a fever, we need to fix that, we need to find out what's causing it, then we give them medication and treatment according to that," Dr. Rubina Azam, a board-certified pediatrician at Baldwin Pediatrics, said.

Dr. Azam believes mental health illnesses should be treated like physical illnesses.

"So parents in the general population, they all need to understand it's not a stigma, it's just like a physical illness," Dr. Azam said.

She said the blame should not fall on the parents, the child, or genetics. Different factors can cause mental illness.

"Usually, the mental health illness is caused by a chemical abnormality or chemical imbalance in the brain," Dr. Azam explained.

This includes nutrition, stress, and physical activity.

Just like how there are different factors determining mental illness, the signs vary too.

"If there's any weight gain, weight loss, if there's any change in the personality, if the kid looks more withdrawn, sad, not happy," Dr. Azam said.

Once families recognize the symptoms, there are resources inside and beyond school walls.

"We will be hiring at least one licensed mental health counselor, at least one clinical social worker, and two Master's levels mental health counselors or social workers," Kara Mulkusky, the incoming Director of Student Services for Bay District Schools, said.

Money from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act will go toward putting together a mental health team for Bay District Schools.

Another facet of the district's resources is trauma-informed care.

"It provides teachers the research kind of behind the trauma and how it can impact behavior and performance in the classroom," Mulkusky explained.

Dozens of teachers in the district have received the training to learn how to give students self-confidence and a sense of belonging.

Outside of the school district, the Life Management Center provides some free mental health resources.

"We're able to go in as a team and there's a psychiatrist, a counselor, a what we call a peer specialist, and others that are on a team that work with them and work with the whole family," Tricia Pearce, Community Relations Specialist for Life Management Center, said.

This service isn't exclusive to Bay County.

"We are actually now going to be able to offer that in the other five counties that we serve," Pearce said.

Those counties will be Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington.

Recently, the conversation surrounding mental health has become less taboo.

"By educating the parents and educating the families and general population, we can remove the stigma that's associated with a mental health disorder," Dr. Azam said.

By taking away the stigma, we can give kids the resources they need to face mental illness.