Healthy minds

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Healthy minds

Goyang, Gyeonggi, has taken the laudable initiative of addressing the growing number of children suffering from developmental problems by offering free examinations and treatment for the underserved.

Last year’s survey of 4,107 first graders in elementary schools in Goyang found one in four children displayed symptoms of behavioral problems. In particular, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a behavioral problem characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and psychological complications, is becoming more commonplace.

A nationwide survey by the government in 2006 on 94 elementary schools in 12 cities produced similar results.

Because behavioral disorders tend to be chronic, and prone to develop into other social disorders in adulthood, it is important that they are identified and treated at an early age. When treated in time, the problems can be controlled, allowing children to lead normal school and personal lives.

But parents and teachers often dismiss possible symptoms as character flaws because they don’t fully understand the mental health issues involved, and often frown on children displaying behavioral problems.

These problems often go unnoticed among children from poor backgrounds, which is what prompted Goyang to offer free medical assistance to 62 children out of the 993 diagnosed with ADHD whose parents agreed to the treatment.

With Goyang setting an example for others to follow, the national government this year plans to expand the survey to 470 schools. But other local governments should act, too, before it’s too late.

What happens in childhood can have an impact on the rest of a person’s life, which is why children should undergo psychological evaluation on a regular basis as they grow up, just as they undergo frequent physicals.

It’s essential that schools and neighbors give due consideration to these issues. Because children with behavioral disorders tend to be impulsive, detached and anxious beyond a normal range, they are usually alienated by their peers, a rejection that can exacerbate problems.

Korea has to rid itself of prejudice against psychological treatment and counseling. Many parents and young people refrain from seeking help for mental problems in case their medical record disadvantages them later in life, especially when job hunting.

Our children have the right to grow up healthy in body and mind.
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