BRADENTON - There has been plenty of talk that the school shooter in Connecticut was suffering from mental illness. Access to resources -- or the lack thereof -- have also been topics of discussion. It made us take a look at our own community and the help available to Suncoast parents who suspect their child might have mental health issues.
But how do you know if your child needs help? The experts say listen to your instincts. And if you're worried, talk to your child's teacher. A teacher who sees a child every day should recognize behavior problems you should be concerned about.
If the problems are there, get professional help. The sooner, the better.
Marlene Hauck has dedicated her life to fighting mental illness. The organization she heads, Sunshine From Darkness, works to raise awareness of mental illness and money for research.
Marlene's battle began when her own daughter Marie was about 15 years old. Marlene realized something was terribly wrong, but she didn't know what -- and she didn't know what to do about it. "When my daughter began to behave erratically, we thought it was defiance…16, 15 years old, those things that happen as a teenager."
It took ten years and a great deal of a pain before Marie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Treatment was hard to find. But today, Marlene's organization helps others on the Suncoast find help. “If you are in crisis, there are amazing places to go -- Bayside Behavior, Coastal Behavior, Manatee Glens. If you are however thinking your child has behavioral or mental health challenges, you need to find a mental health counselor, you need to find a therapist, and you need to discuss with them your concerns."
In Manatee County, Manatee Glens has a walk-in center that’s open five days a week. You don't need an appointment, and there's no charge for the first visit.
Counselors say too often parents try to go it alone. "Getting in touch with someplace like Manatee Glens, finding out what resources there are for you and your family is the probably the key," says Cathy Wilson, Director of Children’s Programs.
And there are many resources on the Suncoast. But Manatee Glens CEO Mary Ruiz says we only reach about half of those who need help. Reaching more would take additional funding. "I think we have to be aware as we approach the fiscal cliff, as we look at tragedy, if we don't support people with the help they need, bad things happen in families and bad things happen in community."