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Office of Children’s Mental Health releases annual report, details how pandemic impacts treatment and care

Posted at 12:45 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 18:36:36-05

MILWAUKEE — In its annual report, the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health details the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on our state’s kids, by gathering data and hearing stories from parents and mental health professionals to find out what steps need to be taken to offer better support, guidance and healing.

“The mental health needs in children were substantial prior to the pandemic, and those needs have only grown especially for those most isolated and vulnerable,” said First Lady Kathy Evers.

One method OCMH hopes to use in understanding how to better serve Wisconsin’s students is through the use of Lived Experience Partners, which offer workshops and interactions to educate people on how to recognize and support those going through a mental health crisis. One student says it was life changing.

“My determination to step in on that fateful night forever altered the course of a fellow student’s life, as well as my own. I wasn't the only person to see the troubling messages but I was the only one to address them. Truthfully before my training, I may have shied away from the situation as well. Now, I know that helping someone in a crisis is something we can all do,” said Lived Experience Partner James Hulce.

The creation of the Mental Health Crisis Card, a pocket-sized tool that has essential information to help de-escalate the situation quickly and safely, is another tool officials hope will offer support.

“One of the most beautiful things about this card is it empowers the voice of the youth or the person carrying the card,” said Karen Katz, Operations Lead, Office of Children’s Mental Health.

The report’s data shows it takes an average of 11 years before children get treatment and help for mental health issues. For director Linda Hall, this, combined with the ongoing mental health professional shortage, pushes her team to do whatever they can to find solutions.

“We know that we can't fix that very quickly. That is going to take a long-term approach to increasing the number of mental health professionals. And so again, this is why we are looking towards other activities that we can be engaged in that will help to address children's mental health and to support them in the interim,” said Hall.

Leaders with the OCMH say they understand mental health stigma is real but by increasing awareness and understanding, the hope is that the conversation will only get easier over time.

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