Northland facilities treat children for mental health issues

By KBJR News 1

July 21, 2014 Updated Jul 22, 2014 at 7:38 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - When it comes to mental health treatment, adults aren't the only people who can need help.

At several Northland facilities, children are receiving treatment before they enter school, some even as young as birth.

"It's really sad a five-year-old has PTSD because of domestic violence," said Kristin Garthus, whose child is seeking treatment at Amberwing in Duluth for PTSD and residual depression.

Garthus was in an abusive relationship for several years and her son, Kingston, suffered trauma from the situation.

Garthus noticed when Kingston's behavior began to change.

"He was so angry. [He would say] 'I hate you mom. I'm trying to leave,'" Garthus said, "He had so much going on for a little kid and I really didn't think that it would affect him that way, having his dad come back, but it did. It was a lot for him to handle."

Dr. ElizaBeth Carver, a licensed psychologist in Amberwing's Zero to Kindergarten program, has been seeing Kingston for about the past month. She says outbursts, often associated with naughty behavior, are signs of traumatic stress.

"He's [Kingston] actually a highly anxious child, who has some residual depression and he's struggling with past trauma," said Carver, "He is going to be more sensitive to other children. He is going to be a bit more angry and disregulated than other children, because he lived in an angry and disregulated environment."

Carver says the sooner a child's behavior is diagnosed and treated, the better.

"It gets more challenging to do as you get older," she said, "Those behavioral patterns get more and more ingrained as we get older."

The Human Development Center in Duluth also treats young children with mental health issues and children affected by trauma.

Saprina Matheny is the Director of Child Trauma Services at HDC. She says unresolved trauma can have long-lasting effects.

"We can see a lot of different impairments from kids who have unresolved issues related to trauma," Matheny said, "We can see impacts in emotional regulation, the ability to know what you feel and then the ability to express what you feel and to cope with what you feel in healthy ways."

If you think your child could be experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder, Dr. Carver recommends contacting your pediatrician.

However, you do not need a physician's referral to get treatment at Amberwing.

A grant has allowed them to fund treatment for some patients who are unable to do so themselves.

For more information contact Amberwing at (218) 355-2100 or the Human Development Center at (218) 728-4491.