Help for mental health

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Okpara Rice, guest columnist

When a child has a stomach ache or a fever, a doctor’s appointment is made. A severe cut or a broken bone, and you’re off to the emergency room — in a hurry.

Physical ailments are easy to spot. In contrast, mental health challenges continue to fly under the radar. Mental Health Awareness Month, which we wrapped up in May, has been an attempt to create awareness for nearly seven decades. Progress has been made over those years, conversations have started but, there is no question that some stigma remains.

Awareness begins with a basic understanding of the significance of the problem. Approximately one in five of our children will experience a diagnosable mental illness. Twenty percent! Furthermore, there is no socio-economic, gender or educational boundaries; mental and behavioral challenges touch every part of society.

Identifying mental health challenges in children even can be tricky for health care providers. Children experience many physical, mental and emotional changes as they go through their natural growth and development. They are still in the process of learning how to cope with and adapt to others.

That’s why early intervention is so important. Our treatment of mental health issues builds on a child’s strengths, reinforces the family system and leads to recovery. Early identification and treatment make a big difference for successful management of these conditions. Children seeking support at Tanager Place include children who deal with a wide variety of issues such as; anxiety disorders, self-esteem challenges, depression, autism, ADHD, bullying and eating disorders.

It is critical that we realize that mental and behavioral health is treatable. All treatment at Tanager Place build on a child’s strengths, reinforces the family system and leads to recovery. We have the needed expertise with fully licensed and accredited medical personnel and board-certified therapists.

Awareness is the first step. It leads to advocacy. We want you to understand what services and facilities are available in our community. Tanager Place offers a full continuum of services for children and families. In 2015 we have seen significant growth in all of our three service pillars; Prevention, Treatment and Research:

• Camp Tanager celebrates 90 years this summer as a free camp for economically and medically disadvantaged children. Camp Tanager serves as a prevention program with goals to boost self-esteem, promote peer development, enhances science skills and nature education. This program expands with a new year-round facility and the creation of Day Camp open to all community children.

• A new expanded outpatient services building offers a newly expanded Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic and houses the Community Based Program’s offices. Our outpatient services meet a child where they are; services are available in the child’s home, at school or in the outpatient clinic. The new space allows us to double the number of children we are able to serve.

• The Tanager Place Research Center continues to boost mental health research with active projects in eating disorders, play therapy and the effects of trauma. Collaborations with area academic institutions include: Coe College, Cornell College, Mount Mercy University, St. Ambrose University and the University of Iowa.

Together we can advocate for today’s children. Together we can approach the need for mental and behavioral health with hope and clarity. Tanager Place is a resource for children and their families. We are here to help.

• Okpara Rice is CEO of Tanager Place in Cedar Rapids. More information:

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