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Published: Tuesday, April 6, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

Class helps parents cope with a child's mental illness

Mental illness can begin very early in a child’s life, sometimes as early as age 3.
While such a diagnosis can be frightening for parents, the earlier an illness is identified, the earlier treatment can begin, said Jim Bloss, president of the Snohomish County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
A free class, being offered for the first time in Snohomish County, will begin this week to help parents whose children have been diagnosed with mental illness.
One of the leaders of the class, Carolyn Hetherwick Goza, said that her own son was diagnosed at age 3 with bipolar disorder. She said she thinks this experience will allow her to help other parents better cope with their own child’s mental illness.
The class will cover a variety of topics, including finding treatments that work, advocating for your child, handling crises and relapses, and improving communication skills.
Tips will be given on how to deal with children’s rages, Goza said.
Parents are given the opportunity to tell others what they’ve been through, in part to help them overcome feelings of isolation, and learn they’re not the only parents dealing with a child having mental illness, she said.
Such parents are often frustrated, she said, not knowing how to deal with their children.
Outlines will be provided on dealing with mental health providers and school systems, including forms to help document problem behaviors, Goza said.
The class was organized because of a lack of help for parents of children with mental illness. Until now, there’s been local support groups for families with an adult member who has mental illness, but nothing has been available for parents of children with a mental health diagnosis.
One-half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and three-fourths occur by age 24, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Parents of children who have been diagnosed with a mental illness shouldn’t get panicky or distraught, Bloss said.
“One of the most positive things is if you spot it early, your child or adolescent will have a lot better shot at recovery than if it’s caught later on,” he said.
It’s hard for parents to think that their son or daughter might have something as serious as mental illness, Bloss said.
“It’s all those hopes and dreams going down the tubes,” he said. But the earlier the problem is diagnosed, “the better off that child is going to be.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.
Course helps parents cope
A free course for parents of children who have mental illness will be offered from 6:30 to 9 p.m. beginning on Thursday for six weeks at Snohomish United Methodist Church, 2400 Lake Ave., Snohomish. Registration is required.
More info: Call 425-347-5365.
Story tags » SnohomishHealth treatmentFamily

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