Identifying physical illness can be easy—if your child has a fever or rash, you go to the doctor. Identifying mental illness can be much harder, but no less important. Unfortunately, mental health illnesses are not as uncommon as you might think, even among children and adolescents. In fact, half of all conditions develop before age 14, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and one in 10 young people have experienced a period of major depression. Growing up already presents a number of challenges and any changes in mental health are important to check out.
The Mental Health Association of Maryland identifies some common symptoms to look out for in your child: does poorly in school, gets into fights constantly, worries all the time, frequently worries about death, never seems to laugh/smile, can’t stay with one activity as long as other children, maintains pattern of repetitive activity (to the point where it interferes with other activities), starts using drugs or alcohol, is cruel to animals and continues with behaviors that should have been outgrown, among others.
If you feel like your child may need mental health services, luckily Maryland has many different options and organizations to help. The one thing almost all mental health groups seem to agree on: Never be afraid to ask for help or treatment.
CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) Local groups offering information and support, including monthly meetings, support groups and speakers. Members may borrow books, audiocassettes and videotapes from the chapter library. chadd-mc.org
The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt comprehensive treatment program for anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and compulsive overeating disorders, including support groups for families and parents. 410-938-5252, eatingdisorder.org
The Johns Hopkins Eating Disorders Program Comprehensive treatment program through the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins. 410-955-3863, hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/eating_disorders/
The Chimes, Inc. International multi-service agency that delivers a wide range of programs, services and supports for people of many ability levels and all ages, including intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and other disabilities.
Community Behavioral Health Association of Maryland Organization dedicated to improving the health of Maryland’s children and adults by advocating for and providing support and technical assistance to Maryland community-based behavioral health service providers and their patients. 410-788-1865, mdcbh.org
Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland Group dedicated to providing services to children and adults struggling with trauma, abuse or other difficulties. Counseling is available to help with a range of issues like depression, anxiety, grief, eating disorders, school problems and more. 410-366-1980, fcsmd.org
Kennedy Krieger Institute This Johns Hopkins affiliate provides diagnosis, evaluation, education and treatment resources for children and adolescents.
MCF (Maryland Coalition of Families for Children’s Mental Health) Advocacy organization focused on the families of children with emotional, behavioral or mental health disabilities. Provides information, networking and referral.
Mental Health Association of Maryland Education and advocacy regarding all aspects of mental health and mental illness. 443-901-1550,
Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, Behavioral Health Providing assessment and services for a variety of mental health illnesses, like anxiety disorders, depression, autism, ADHD, behavioral outbursts and more.
NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) Local affiliates offer referrals to local mental health professionals, education, support and advocacy for individuals and families dealing with mental illness, including support groups for families. nami.org; NAMI Maryland, 410-884-8691, namimd.org
PACT: Helping Children with Special Needs, Comprehensive Therapy Center An affiliate of the Kennedy Krieger Institute offering counseling and mental health services to children.
410-298-7000 ext. 41928,
SPEAK (Suicide Prevention Education Awareness for Kids) Promotes the prevention of youth suicide and aims to dispel the social stigma surrounding suicide and depression through a campaign of education and awareness at the community level. 410-377-7711, speakforthem.org
Sheppard Pratt Health System Short- to long-term in-patient care and day hospital for children ages 5-18, along with other child and adolescent services. 410-938-4777, sheppardpratt.org