May 1-7 is being recognized as Children’s Mental Health Acceptance Week and the entire month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that more than 40% of U.S. high school students reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To make mental health services and supports more easily accessible throughout West Virginia, the Children’s Crisis and Referral Line is available 24/7 to connect youths and families with treatment in their community. The line is operated by First Choice Services, which operates several other helplines, including the HELP4WV addiction and mental health line. Helpline specialists provide immediate de-escalation for families in crisis and connect callers to services in their area.
Program Director Ann Hammond says that often, families struggle to find the help they need. “When a child has mental health issues or behavioral issues, the whole family is affected. Without help, the child may end up hospitalized or placed out of the home. Caregivers may not know what type of service they need, what they are eligible for, or the steps they need to take to receive help. Our hope with this line is to make services easier to access so more kids can get effective care in their own home.”
Signs that a child may need mental health treatment include these:
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks (e.g., crying regularly, feeling
fatigued, feeling unmotivated);
- Trying to harm or kill oneself or making plans to do so;
- Out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors that can cause harm to self or others;
- Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart, physical discomfort or fast breathing;
- Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight;
- Significant weight loss or gain;
- Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships;
- Repeated use of drugs or alcohol;
- Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits (e.g., waking up early and acting agitated);
- Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still that can lead to failure in school; and
- Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities like hanging out with friends or going to classes.
Anyone concerned about their child’s behavior or mental health can access help 24/7 by calling 1-844-HELP-4WV or chatting online at HELP4WV.com.
Funding for the Children’s Crisis and Referral Line is provided by the West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health with a federal grant from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA).