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The Child Mind Institute Offers Specialized Care and Dignity to Kids With Mental Health Issues

The Child Mind Institute was founded in 2009 to bring together clinicians, researchers, and educators in an independent, non-profit organization that would focus solely on children’s mental health. Of the 74.5 million children in the United States, an estimated 17.1 million have or have had a mental health disorder — more than the number of children with cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. The Child Mind Institute gives these children access to the best, most effective treatments when and where they need it most. Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, one of the nation’s leading child and adolescent psychiatrists, is the founding president of the institution.





 1. Why was the Child Mind Institute established and how are you different from other child-focused institutions? 

Our goal is to offer excellent care to children and their families, to stimulate research that will improve diagnosis and treatment, to fight stigma against mental illness, and to provide parents, educators and thought leaders with information and resources that will allow them to help children get the kind of care they need. We know that the right treatment can transform the lives of children who are struggling — and the families who love them — and we are dedicated to getting more children that life-changing care. We don’t accept any funding from pharmaceutical companies.

2. What are some of the mental health disorders that affect children and require special attention? 

Many people don’t realize that most mental health and developmental disorders begin in childhood or adolescence — 50 percent before age 14 and 75 percent before age 24. Anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD and autism all affect children, and disorders like bipolar and schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder usually begin in the teen or young adult years. What people also may not realize is that the sooner these conditions are treated, the better the outcome for the child.

Anxiety is the most common disorder in children and adolescence, and also the most overlooked and misunderstood. It’s sometimes called the “great masquerader” because it generates so many different symptoms: shyness, avoidance and inattention as well as outbursts. Kids often appear oppositional or aggressive when they’re really anxious, and children often don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. As many as 80 percent of kids who are struggling with anxiety don’t get treatment, despite the fact that it’s among the most treatable disorders.

3. Are you seeing an increase in childhood anxiety and depression linked to social media, especially online bullying? How do you treat such patients?

A review of recent studies shows that social media can be both helpful and harmful to young users. Among the positive effects on kids are increased self-esteem and social support, and identity experimentation, and increased opportunity for safe identity experimentation self-expression. Among the negative impacts are social isolation and cyber-bullying.

What we also know from research is that more time spent on social media is correlated with higher levels of anxiety. What we don’t know is whether stress from social media is creating anxiety symptoms, or anxious kids tend to obsess over social media.

When kids are experiencing problems related to social media use, we want to make sure there isn’t an undiagnosed mental health or learning problem that’s contributing to unhealthy behavior. And we work with both parents and children to establish healthy limits and protect their well-being. When children are depressed or anxious as a result of bullying, we need to treat the depression or anxiety as well as protect them from the source of bullying.

4. Is online gaming addictive, and how is it affecting the mental health of today’s youth? 

This is a very hot topic right now. Parents often worry that kids have become “addicted” to games like Fortnite, World of Warcraft or Minecraft. Their concerns were recently validated by The World Health Organization’s decision to include Gaming Disorder in the most recent edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

That said, gaming isn’t addictive in the way, say, drugs are. Yes, games are designed to keep players engaged by being highly stimulating. It’s annoying to parents when kids want to spend all their free time playing. But most kids will respond to healthy limits on game use.

Gaming becomes a serious problem when it takes the place of other important activities, undermines social relationships, or has a negative impact on school performance. When this happens we usually find an underlying problem — like ADHD, depression or social anxiety— is causing kids to retreat into games, and treating that problem will help kids have a healthy relationship to gaming. If parents are concerned about a child’s gaming habits, talking to a professional is a good idea. A clinician may be able to identify and treat underlying issues that cause gaming to feel addictive, and help the family learn how to set and maintain healthy limits.


5. Talk about the programs your offer and how can families become involved?  

Families can go to our website and subscribe to our newsletter for informative, unbiased articles and guides about children’s mental health. Families can also follow us on social media to learn about our campaigns and events, including our #MyYoungerSelf campaign that brings together celebrities and other well-known individuals each May to bust the stigma surrounding mental health and learning disorders.

Donors are essential to our success, so if families are able to make a donation of any size, their contribution will go towards supporting our research into finding more effective treatments, helping more families receive financial aid for high-quality clinical care, and allowing us to expand our education and outreach programs.

For families interested in receiving an evaluation or treatment, we offer high-quality evidence-based care. Learn more about our clinical services here.

This piece was featured in the Sept. 9th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.