Resources to Help Parents of Mentally Ill Children

Suzan Clarke
ABC News

When Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and fatally shot 20 children and six adults, the attack re-opened a fierce debate about mental illness.

Lanza, 20, reportedly had an unspecified personality disorder, and in the wake of the rampage, many parents have aired their personal stories about struggling to cope with troubled children.

CLICK HERE for full coverage of the Newtown Elementary School Shooting

Studies have shown that many children who might need mental health services do not receive them. A 2002 study found that only 23 percent of U.S. adolescents who needed mental health treatment had actually received it in the prior year, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

About 60 million Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Below is a list of organizations that can help the parents or caregivers of mentally ill children:

The Resources

Your state: Each state runs a mental health agency under the aegis of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Click HERE to find mental health programs and treatment facilities in your area. The agency also runs a free disaster distress helpline for anyone who is experiencing distress as a result of a natural or man-made disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990.

NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a grassroots organization that provides advocacy for the access to services and support for the mentally ill across the United States. Its more than 1,000 affiliate organizations across America also provide education and training for parents of mentally ill children and adolescents. NAMI's Child and Adolescent Action Center offers peer discussion groups and other support for teens who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, as well as peer support for parents and caregivers. Click HERE to find your local NAMI affiliate.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The free lifeline is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week to people who believe they are in crisis, even if they are not contemplating suicide. "People have called us for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness," a message on the organization's website says. Click HERE to go to the website, or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to be connected to a counselor at anytime. The organization also provides specialized help for young adults and veterans.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: The organization's website offers links to resources and treatment options, as well as simple definitions for disorders, symptoms and signs of mental disorders, answers to frequently asked questions, a medication guide for parents, clinical resources and expert videos, and other information. The AACAP also offers Facts for Families , a free comprehensive guide for families dealing with children with mental illness. The guide is available in English and Spanish, and other resources are made available in Chinese, Malaysian, Polish, Icelandic, Arabic, Urdu and Hebrew. Click HERE to go to the organization's resources page.

The Child Mind Institute: The Child Mind Institute is a private organization that provides research, advocacy, resources and clinical care for children and teens who suffer from psychiatric and learning disorders. The institute's website offers a symptom checker, glossary of mental health terms and mental health guide, and a list identifying 11 simple signs that indicate a child may have a psychiatric disorder. Click HERE for the institute's resources page.

Mental Health America: The organization works to provide advocacy and access to quality behavioral health services for all Americans. It has more than 200 affiliates in 41 states. MHA also provides for the general public comprehensive information about mental illness, and offers links to the public for crisis counseling, treatment options, mental health providers, clinical trials and help to pay for prescription medications, among a number of topics. Click HERE for the organization's resources page.