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Dear Abby 3/20

Stigma of illness prevents parents from seeking help

DEAR ABBY: Your reply to "Worried Aunt in Florida" (Feb. 9), whose nephew suffers from OCD, hit the nail on the head. Often parents don't want their children's psychotic behaviors made public by seeking help. Nothing could be so wrong! I know because a close family member, who for years required counseling and analysis, was ignored by her parents so they could avoid the stigma of having a "crazy" child.
    The result? A failed suicide attempt, resulting in permanent physical impairment and significant deterioration in the mental state of that child. It's my belief that every so-called "odd behavior" is a warning signal and should be addressed before things get out of hand. -- STEVE IN ONTARIO, CANADA
    DEAR STEVE: I agree that parents need to be vigilant and proactive in protecting their children, and not hide their heads in the sand pretending that problems don't exist. I heard from a number of health care professionals who were also concerned about the young man in the letter. Read on:
    DEAR ABBY: In the health care world, there are such things as "emancipated conditions." These are certain health conditions that can be treated in minors without parental consent or knowledge. (In some states the child can be 12 or older; in others, 14 or older.) In the state of Florida, this law applies.
    If "Vincent" is concerned about his obsessive-compulsive disorder and his parents refuse to acknowledge the problem, he may seek treatment without them. The local health department in that boy's county can provide information on clinics that provide these services. Minors do have a choice regarding their health care when it comes to emancipated conditions. -- CERTIFIED PEDIATRIC NURSE PRACTITIONER IN INDIANA
    DEAR ABBY: As a psychiatrist, I must respond to "Worried Aunt" about her nephew's likely OCD. OCD can be a horribly disabling condition thought to be caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in a specific region of the brain. Recent research has linked its onset in children and adolescents to an immune response to streptococcal infection. Bottom line: It's nobody's "fault," and many good treatments exist to reduce its crippling effects.
    I suspect the mother of this child is not seeking care for him in part because of worry that she will be blamed for his condition. Despite good ole Oedipus, in this age, we in the profession have learned it's not (usually) Mom's fault! Please refer families with loved ones suffering from OCD to NAMI, to the Web site of the National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov), or to local support groups where excellent information on treatments may be obtained. -- THOMAS HARDING, M.D., MILWAUKEE
    DEAR READERS: For anyone who might not know, "NAMI" is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Its toll-free number is (800) 950-6264. Its Web site is www.nami.org.
    DEAR ABBY: OCD is a very real disorder that could lead to depression or suicide. You can't "just stop" these behaviors. Please inform "Worried Aunt" about the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation. Reach it by calling 1-203-401-2070, or on the Web at www.ocfoundation.org. I did not know until a therapist in our area, specifically trained to treat OCD, interviewed our son that he felt hopeless, depressed and suicidal.
    After a year of treatment he is a different, happier person. OCD is a lifelong condition, but there are tools to deal with it so that young man can lead a normal life. -- PARENT OF A SON WITH OCD

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