May is Mental Health Month 2016

Mental health treatment focused on youth in contemporary times
By: Matt Kramer
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As the month of May begins, so also begins Mental Health Month 2016, a campaign to raise awareness and resources for those who suffer from mental health issues in America. Mental Health Month 2016 was created by Mental Health America, a community based nonprofit that has worked to advocate for mental health issues since 1909. The treatment and understanding of mental health issues has advanced a good deal from then to now. This is important to note as, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, approximately one in five Americans suffer from a mental health related issue each year. This is not to mention those affected indirectly by these issues.


In the time of Rosemary Kennedy, John F. Kennedy's younger sister who suffered the consequences of a tragic lobotomy, much less was understood about the way mental health functions. Swiss neurologist Gottlieb Burckhardt was the first advocate for surgery as a method of mental health treatment, and the first lobotomy in the United States was performed by psychiatrist Walter Freeman in 1936; the same Freeman who operated on Rosemary Kennedy in 1941.


According to the Electronic Journal of Sociology (1998), many mental health reforms were put forth in the early 1960's. But, although these reforms made many marvelous improvements and ended many practices now considered barbaric, they were set back with the multitudinous closure of state hospitals due to withdrawal of federal support under the Reagan administration.


When treating mental health issues today, professionals have a different focus and a different set of tools. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, 20 percent of those aged 13 to 18 live with a mental health condition; and 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, 75 percent by age 24. It's not surprising then that therapists and psychiatrists today often focus their efforts on young people. Folsom resident and practicing Educationally Related Mental Health Therapist Alice Magnussen, 33, said that mental health issues can often spring from childhood.

“I would say the biggest issue that comes to mind first and foremost would be the parents,” Magnussen said. “It's really hard to help a kid when the parents don't buy into it. Usually when the kids are older it's easier to work with them. I see a lot of depression and anxiety, and also people with disabilities as far as ADHD or even autism.”


Magnussen said that more than medication, the most effective treatment for youth with mental illness is regular advocacy and support.


“The most effective thing is having at least one positive role model, that is unconditionally there for them,” Magnussen said. “Kids who have a higher level of trauma as children are (still) going to succeed if they have someone on their side. Consistency is really key.”