Childhood mental disorders affect boys and girls of all ages, all ethnic/racial backgrounds, from all walks of life, and in all regions of the United States – including New Orleans and across Louisiana. According to the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 13 – 20 percent of children in the US (up to 1 in 5 children) experience a mental health disorder or challenge each year.
Another concerning fact is that today, less than half of those children and adolescents affected by mental or behavioral health disorders receive the treatment they need. With most lifetime mental illnesses starting by age 14, as with most medical conditions, the sooner treatment begins the better the outcome is likely to be.
These children, our children, affected by mental health challenges have a harder time enjoying life, doing well in school, and forming relationships with others. We know that as children grow, untreated mental disorders or unmanaged stress and anxiety can become even more severe.
Everyone has been impacted by mental health. Friends, family members, colleagues, or even our own struggles. We all know how difficult coping with these situations can be. In each instance, we wish that there had been more support. Someone to talk to. A place to seek help.
The numbers say it all. Today, 7.4% of children ages 3-17 have a diagnosed behavioral problem; 7.1% of children ages 3-17 have diagnosed anxiety; and 3.2% of children ages 3-17 have diagnosed depression. Today, children and adolescents are suffering from higher amounts of stress and societal pressures than ever before.
While we are working to provide comprehensive treatment for children and adolescents living with mental health disorders, we know that change doesn’t happen within the four walls of a hospital or clinic alone – changing the dynamics of healthcare happens when an entire community comes together. Children’s Hospital New Orleans is on a mission to do just that – by bringing our community together to advance the mental wellbeing of all kids.
Transforming mental and behavioral health for children starts with expansion of services. Children’s Hospital will soon open a new, free-standing 51 bed Behavioral Health Center on our campus, which is a huge step in the right direction. The Center, opening in March, will be among the largest and most comprehensive pediatric programs in the nation.
Transformation also happens by building a community where all kids receive the specialized care and support they need. Children’s Hospital is proud to introduce the High 5 Project, a community wide movement to meet the mental health needs of Louisiana’s children. The High 5 Project is about starting important conversations and building a community where 5 in 5 kids can thrive.
The High Five Project will spread kindness, boost confidence, expand access, provide support, share resources, improve care, remove stigmas, and build a community focused on mental wellbeing.
The High 5 Project encourages people from all walks of life to start talking about mental health and to share why they “High 5”. The High 5 Project is also a grassroots initiative that will integrate valuable resources into community programs, schools and other places to meet kids and families where they are with this important message.
By infusing this conversation into our community, we hope to remove stigmas, get people talking about mental and behavioral health, and to let anyone who is suffering know that there is help out there. We encourage the community to join the conversation by sharing why you High 5 using the hashtag #High5Project. Learn more at www.chnola.org/high5.
Mark Ranatza RN, BSN is the Director of Behavioral Health at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. Mark was born and raised in New Orleans, and is a graduate of Brother Martin. He earned his BS in Kinesiology from Louisiana State University and BSN from LSU Health Sciences Center School of Nursing. Mark began his career as a Nurse Tech at Children’s Hospital in 2012, and has worked in various nursing roles, including as an acute care RN in hematology/oncology and pediatric intensive care, as well as nursing administration as a nurse supervisor. Mark is currently enrolled in the MHA program at LSU and will graduate this summer.