Nearly one out of every 10 children nationwide has a mental or behavioral health challenge, and experts say most parents and teachers often aren't equipped with the skills to understand. NY1's Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
Leading her parents through game time comes naturally to 17-year-old Erin Mercado now. But in her earlier teens, showing her cards, so-to-speak, wasn't so easy.
"I started getting depressed around 12, I was like really sad, didn't have any energy to do anything and I was also really angry for...over anything," says Mercado.
Erin had also been expressing those feelings by cutting herself. Her mother, Nivia Dones, says figuring out how to react was like learning to become a parent all over again.
"I have older daughters and I have a younger son, they're each different. But we were also the traditional parents with the parenting skills, that was not going to work with Erin," says Dones.
On top of getting Erin help, her parents also got help through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. Through a free six-week course, NAMI Basics helps parents like the Dones pick up skills they need to problem solve, listen and communicate. NAMI is kicking off a new series of free classes throughout the city to go along with the back to school season.
"Most parents and families...they feel isolated they feel like they're the only ones out there going through this. And by coming to the course they have a group of support," says NAMI Family Coordinator Deniece David.
This time of year, lots of kids and families are getting ready for what many of them may be a new routine, whether it is what's ready for school lunch or getting in for that annual physical exam. And experts say it is especially important to make sure mental health is also included on that check list.
"Children have to adjust if they're going to different classroom settings. Something as simple as that could trigger something in a child," says David.
NAMI's free fall classes launch September 12th through 14th.
To find out more, visit http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=NAMI_Basics1.