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Mental Health Services for My Child
Where Do I Begin?
(#1 of 3 in Series)
When to Get Help
Parents and family members are usually the first to be concerned about their child’s behavior or emotions. Sometimes it is hard for parents to know when to act on their concerns or if the behavior is a typical part of development. When behaviors or emotions are disrupting a child and their family over time and get in the way of age-appropriate activity, it may be time to seek help and support.
Some examples of behavior that may mean a child needs additional support include: feeling sad or withdrawn for weeks at a time, severe mood swings, significant changes in behavior or personality, extreme over-eating or dieting, not being able to sit still or pay attention, intense worries that get in the way of daily life, or any behavior that is harmful to themselves or others.
Where to Start
Families don’t need to be afraid or embarrassed to reach out and seek help for their children. Did you know that one in five people struggle with mental illness, and half of all mental illness starts by age 14? With treatment and support, most children and teens can learn to cope with challenging behaviors, develop close relationships, and gain the skills to lead successful lives. (NAMI, nami.org).
Talk to Your Child’s Medical Provider
For most families, the first step is to make an appointment with your child’s primary care provider and talk about your concerns. They can help you recognize behavior outside the typical range and can make referrals for further diagnosis or evaluation. You may want to write down your thoughts and keep track of when you first noticed the concerning behavior, how often you see it, and what seems to trigger that behavior.
Talk to Family-Support Agencies
Connecting with family support organizations can be a critically important in helping families on their journey. Wisconsin Family Ties or 608.267.6888 is staffed by parents who have children with mental health concerns. They assist families in finding services and offer parent-peer specialists to help navigate systems and provide support. NAMI Wisconsin at 800.236.2988 and Mental Health America of WI at 866.948.6483 provides information and advocacy for people with mental health concerns. WI FACETS at 877.374.0511 offers support and assistance for families with special education needs.
Talk to Your Child’s School
Most schools have a social worker or counselor to help you find resources and services. You can discuss services available during the school day and whether your child may qualify for special education services. To learn more about special education, visit the DPI website, dpi.wi.gov, and read Special Education in Plain Language. WI FACETS may also be able to help navigate services a child needs during their school day.
Get a Professional Evaluation
Your child’s doctor or school staff may suggest having your child evaluated by a mental health professional. Your child’s primary care provider can send in a referral and offer names of professionals or clinics who offer evaluations.
It is essential that you contact your insurance company or health plan to find out which providers and evaluation services are covered under your plan. If you need help finding a provider visit Well Badger Resource Center. Their Children’s Mental Health and Behavioral Health Navigator can help you find providers in your area.
After the Diagnosis
Many families feel hopeful once they have a diagnosis and can start to learn more about their child’s condition. Here are a few online resources to start:
- Finding Your Way, A Navigation Guide for Wisconsin Families Who Have a Child with Special Health Care Needs and Disabilities: Resources – UCEDD – UW–Madison (wisc.edu)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment
- NAMI Wisconsin Resource Guide: namiwisconsin.org/resources
Your child’s primary care provider can partner with you to find the right treatment and services for your child and family. This may include medication, therapy, community programs, or school-based support and services. Other programs and services, like support groups for teens and parents, may also benefit your family.
INFORMATION AND RESOURCES
To learn about paying for services, treatment options, waiting for services, and long-term support, visit the Family Voices Resource Library and view the rest of the Mental Health fact sheet series.
To learn about transition services for a teen or young adult, see: Transition for Youth with Mental Health Needs
Developed by Family Voices of Wisconsin in partnership with the Office of Children’s Mental Health, children.wi.gov.
Family Voices of Wisconsin, 2023© | familyvoiceswi.org
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