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Adolescent Mental Health Facilities

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Adolescent Mental Health Facilities

An adolescent is defined to be someone who has undergone puberty but has not yet reached full adulthood. This time usually begins at the start of middle school. It is a very stressful time for most adolescents because of all the changes going on around them. Not only are they dealing with social stresses, but things at home might not be all right. They may be starting to use drugs, or even worse they could be addicted already. Sexual pressure also starts to become a more frequent stressor. These problems may not seem to be the end of the world for adults, but it can cause severe damage physically and mentally, to an adolescent. More and more teenagers are encountering tough situations that drive them to have mental disorders. In extreme cases going to a mental health facility or psychiatric ward of a hospital is the best thing one could do to help these adolescents. The problem is that there are not enough facilities like that for teenage sufferers. More adolescent psychiatric wards or mental health facilities need to be built solely for the overwhelming number of teenagers with mental disorders.

The first mental health facility in the United States opened in 1773 in Williamsburg, Virginia. By 1832 there were 32 facilities, and those that were mentally ill in jail and almshouses were being moved into these places. In 1930 the US finally established a division called the Narcotics Division to bring together research on drug addiction and metal disease and how to prevent and treat both of these problems. In the 40's during World War II there was a shortage of mental health personnel. It got so bad that federal action had to be taken. There was a proposal for a mental health program and from that came the National Mental Health Act of 1946. After President Truman signed this act a significant amount of money was put towards the research and education of mental illnesses. All the money and research lead to the founding of the National Institute of Mental Health in 1949. Also in 1949 lithium was discovered to reduce the symptoms of bipolar disease, but the FDA did not approve the drug until 1970. Congress authorized the Mental Health Study Act of 1955. Then in 1956 they also appropriated $12 million to the research of psychopharmacology. In 1965 there was a major improvement in mental health care. The improvements included, "Construction and staffing grants to centers were extended and facilities that served those with alcohol and substance abuse disorders were made eligible to receive grants" (Van Loon). Another grant was also given to advance the research of children's services. Then in 1981 the Mental Health Study Act of 1955 was replaced by the Alcohol, Drug, Abuse, and Mental Health block grant. In June of 1999 President Clinton held a conference on mental health while the nation awaited the Surgeon General's report on mental health. Then in October 2000 President Clinton signed the Children's Health Act that, "establishes national standards that restrict the use of seclusion and restraint in all psychiatric facilities that receive federal funds" (Van Loon). Presently President Bush is conducting more research in what the nation can do to better mental health facilities.

The process of being admitted to a mental health ward or hospital is the same for adolescents and adults. A potential patient goes to the emergency room. The person may go on his own will or be brought there by the police because he is a threat to himself. The person then gets all his or her vital signs checked by the nurse. After that the crisis unit takes the person into a room and a social worker conducts an interview. The questions he or she asks are aimed at determining if the person is experiences the symptoms of a mental illness. According to Davis things the interviewer needs to ask himself include, "Does this patient have the potential for self-harm? Might this patient have a potential possibly harm him or herself? If self - harm is possible what is the probability of self - harm, and what are the circumstances, degree of lethality and imminence involved?" (1983, p.148). After the social worker takes notes on the interview with the person he speaks with the psychiatrist on call and tells him what kinds of answers he got from the interview. Based on what the psychiatrist thinks and with some input from the social worker a decision is made to either keep the person over night in the crisis unit to calm down or to be admitted into a ward to receive treatment. Either way the person's blood is taken to be checked and a urine test is done. All of the person's belongings are taken and stored until the day the person is released from the hospital, whether it is the next day or a week later. When the psychiatrist determines that a person needs to be hospitalized a search for an open bed on a psychiatric ward is conducted. Once an opening is found the patient needs to sign papers accepting to be admitted, and if he or she refuses to sign he or she may be committed legally.

The statistics of mental health facilities in the United States overall are surprising. The number of beds available in all types of psychiatric hospitals went from 215000 in 1980 to 8500 in 2002 (U.S. Census, p.111). In total in 1980 there were 534000 hospitals and by 2002 the number decreased to 477000 (U.S. Census, p.111). The average number of days spent in a psychiatric hospital in 2002 was 7.1 days (U.S. Census, p.113). Of these numbers a very small amount of these wards are solely for adolescents. According to Gorski, "The 'kids in crisis,' those suffering from full-blown psychiatric crises, wait for hours in emergency rooms for psychiatric assessment only to be told no treatment resources are available" (2001). Children and adolescents are also sometimes put on a wait list where they may stay for months before something opens up for them. Sometimes they are put in a pediatric ward until something is found or else they are just discharged without receiving treatment. It is estimated that five to ten percent of children have mental health disorders, and out of those about sixty percent do not get the treatment they need (Gorski, 2001). In 2001 children ranging in age from 5 - 24 reportedly committed suicide 4,160 times out of 39,346 deaths according to the U.S. Census Bureau (Statistical Abstract, p.82). It is also estimated that there will be 5000 adolescent suicides in a year and another 250,000 will attempt suicide (Davis, 1983).

There are many mental health diseases that adolescents encounter. Many parents and caregivers do not consider some of these to be serious issues, but if they are not taken seriously they may lead to more serious things in the future. Another problem is that the caregiver may not realize or be aware that this



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