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Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities
in activities that lead to identification and helpful intervention for mental, emotional, and behavioral problems.
Law and the Judicial System
While some individuals in the legal system appear to be aware and responsive to the needs of children, particularly those at risk for MEB disorders, children’s needs are often secondary to other considerations. Such situations arise frequently when such issues as child custody and visitation are decided in cases of divorce, domestic violence, or child abuse and neglect. Recognition that these situations place children’s mental health at risk should lead to decisions that consider, above all, the children’s well-being. Enhanced mechanisms for informing lawyers, magistrates, and judges about the role they can play in the prevention of MEB disorders should be adopted, starting in law school.
Public Awareness and Public Policy
A pivotal effort must target the training of youth, their families, and the public to understand the importance of mitigating risks for MEB disorders. This universal approach should include policy makers and individuals who determine how public and private funds will be allocated in the attempt to improve mental health outcomes for children.
A public that is aware of the huge burden of MEB disorders, as well as the needs and opportunities for prevention, will be more likely to promote informed decision making about programmatic responses from both the private and the public sectors. Vehicles for dissemination of information include, first and foremost, the media, including opportunities to dispel the stigma associated with MEB disorders (see Chapter 8). Schools should also play a role, as should primary health care providers. Professional societies, as well as private and government agencies, should have major educational roles. Priorities have targeted diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation, perhaps at the expense of prevention efforts. Achieving the proper balance in the future will require informed discussions and decisions at the highest levels. Prevention often is not addressed because the public expects immediate return on its investment. Education should include compelling information about the real and potential benefits and cost reductions of successful prevention efforts. In particular, this information should be directed to public policy makers. Education and possibly publicly supported incentives must also target health care payers who currently often refuse reimbursement for prevention efforts.