FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) An Allen County judge said the number of children coming into his courtroom with mental illness is on the rise, and those children are younger than ever.
Now, advocates are hoping a documentary that airs Tuesday night in Fort Wayne will help start the discussion of children’s mental health. Hear our Voices: Transforming the Children’s Mental Healthcare System highlights the struggle of nine children with mental illnesses from across the country.
“I think it’s a great tool to bring awareness, to bring discussion opportunities, because it personalizes in a way that we can all relate to these kids,” Allen County Superior Judge Charles Pratt said.
When Pratt said he watched the documentary, he saw the children who come through his courtroom every day.
“I could probably find a child in my case load either presently or in the past that meets almost every one of those children,” Pratt said.
He said it’s more important than ever to rethink the mental health system, even in Allen County.
“The issue of mental health in children has, especially in our county, to critical stage,” Pratt said.
The film reveals how children often fall behind in school or run into problems with the law if their mental health isn’t treated. Pratt said the current mental health system needs to change.
“There is not good communication across the state as regard to what services are available, there’s not good communication across the state in terms of how to access those services for mental health care for children. There’s a stigma that attaches for families and children,” Pratt said.
Pratt said he’d like to see more screening for children with mental illnesses so they can get effective treatment tailored to them.
“We as a system, that being the delinquency and child in need of services system, needs to have better streamlined services, better ways of identifying and better ways of communicating,” Pratt said.
The film airs 6:30 Tuesday night at the Main Allen County Library downtown. It is free and open to the public.It will be followed by a panel discussion at 8:00 o’clock. There will be several area services on hand talking about local treatment options.