Going mental about children’s health

Children’s Mental Health is a topic that not enough people are aware of. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14. If these children are not diagnosed in time, the consequences can be serious. Suicide, criminal behavior, substance abuse and school failure might all be prevented when mental health disorders are the cause, if diagnosed and treated in time. 
The fourth annual Children’s Mental Health conference will be held from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1 in Florida Gulf Coast University’s Cohen Center Ballroom. The keynote speakers for this year’s conference will be Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian, sisters who co-authored a book titled “Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid!” The conference will have three breakout sessions and a vendor exhibit.
This year’s conference is being organized by the FGCU College of Education, the Florida Institute of Government and the Hunter Institute of Early Childhood Learning. The conference is open to the public. 
According to Joanne Hartke, the director of the Florida Institute of Government and one of the creators and organizers of this conference, the event’s main goal is to raise awareness and sensitivity, as well as provide education, networking and resources to the community in general.
“No child should be allowed to fail without being given many opportunities to succeed.” Hartke said.
Diane Kratt, College of Education instructor, is one of the creators and organizers of the conference as well. She thinks this conference is helpful in preparing student teachers as much as possible. “Every single classroom has children with mental health needs, and I want our teachers to be ready to meet those needs” Kratt said.
Amany Elgendy, a student who graduated with a major in elementary education, attended two of these conferences. “I don’t know anybody who is mentally handicapped personally. Going to these conferences made me aware of them as a teacher,” Elgendy said.
Sander Langebeeke, a senior double-majoring in accounting and secondary math education, attended the conference last fall. Langebeeke thinks what shocked him the most of what he learned at the conference was the amount of misdiagnosed patients.
“The biggest offender is ADHD. Many students are being diagnosed with ADHD that may not necessarily have it. ADHD usually is accompanied with drugs, so you might be giving drugs to students who don’t necessarily need it. It’s very important to research before you give a diagnosis.” Langebeeke said. 
Erin Delgado, a senior elementary education major and a full-time student teacher in Collier County, will attend her second conference this year. She thinks these conferences are very helpful to her as an education major. “We are extremely fortunate to have this event on campus.” Delgado said. 
“The vendor exhibit is a perfect place to get great references if you ever need to contact anyone. There is a variety of different organizations to get information about,” Delgado added. 
The conference has a cost of $49 for the public, $25 for student, and $69 for participants with a continuing education unit. Anybody interested in attending can register through http://registeriog.fgcu.edu.