Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Experts advise treating youth mental and behavioral health before it’s a crisis

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PALMDALE, Calif. — When you think of mental health, you may not immediately think of a food bank, but to Chad Scott, it’s all connected.

He says on any given Tuesday, they may have 150 families come to the Sycamores Family Resource Center for groceries.


What You Need To Know

  • Scott is the assistant vice president of clinical care at the Sycamores Palmdale location, one of the organization’s ten total facilities but one that is placed in a highly critical area
  • The Antelope Valley area is also an area where many young people are dealing with very difficult situations. According to Catalyst California’s State of the Child report, nearly 2000 students in antelope valley schools are homeless and more than 2000 are in foster care
  • Teri Walton, director of clinical services, says many of the children referred to Sycamores may be displaying behavioral issues that stem from trauma or generational trauma, and as with so many things, early intervention is key


“When our parents come to focus on children’s mental health issues,” he explained. “It can be very challenging if you’re struggling to keep a roof over your head, put food on the table.”

Scott is the assistant vice president of clinical care at the Sycamores Palmdale location, one of the organization’s ten total facilities but one that is placed in a highly critical area.

“One of the things that’s unique to the Antelope Valley is that there is a pronounced lack of access to care when it comes to the mental health providers,” he said. 

It’s also an area where many young people are dealing with very difficult situations. According to Catalyst California’s State of the Child report, nearly 2000 students in antelope valley schools are homeless and more than 2000 are in foster care.  

Teri Walton, director of clinical services, says many of the children referred to Sycamores may be displaying behavioral issues that stem from trauma or generational trauma, and as with so many things, early intervention is key.

“Depression that goes untreated or anxiety that goes untreated, tends to worsen,” she said. “Some of the kids eventually wind up needing to be hospitalized. They’re considering suicide… and we just obviously don’t ever want to get to that point.”

As it did for Roxana Rivera’s oldest son.

“He would tell me, you know, I would be better off dead,” she recalled.

He and his four siblings came to live with Roxana after they were removed from her daughter, who was on the streets and struggling with addiction. He told her he was hearing voices and often displayed behavioral issues.

“He took it to school,” she remembered, “and school is the one that told me that they had made an appointment for us to come here.”

She admits she was skeptical initially, and thought it sounded like “a bunch of baloney,” but little by little she saw a change and four years later, she thinks the services he received at Sycamores saved his life. 

 

“And now I’m very grateful that, you know, I was able to get him the help that he needed,” Rivera said.

Therapy is a commitment, she admits. She and her grandkids, four of whom she has now adopted, came several times a week for several years. But Scott stresses, a child doesn’t need to be in crisis for the family to reach out for help.

“Maybe a parent’s concern about how their child’s functioning in school and feel like an evaluation for ADHD could be helpful,” he explained. “Other kids may be coming in and dealing with isolation and depression. It doesn’t mean that you have had to have a psychiatric hospitalization to benefit from therapy.”

He’s been working in this field for 27 years and says the stigma around seeking mental health services has lessened, but there is a still a ways to go.

He encourages families to treat behavioral health like physical health. If you want to get better, he says, seek treatment.

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