PRINCETON — Bureau County Board member Loretta Volker is speaking out about a “glaring need” which the Illinois Project for Local Assessment of Needs (IPLAN) has revealed about Bureau County.
The IPLAN is a community health assessment and planning process that is conducted every five years by local health departments in the state. The law requires health departments to examine the statistics and determine how to address major health issues.
What is Bureau County’s major health issue?
According to Volker, the county is in need of increased mental health services.
While the results are not much different from many rural areas in the state, Volker said the one thing that sets the county apart from others is the suicide rate, which is one of the highest in the state.
“That sounds really bad, but our statistics are really skewed. The Bureau County population consists of high percentages of youth and retirees,” she said. “In both population groups, that’s where you have higher incidents.”
Parallel to that information, she expressed concerns in the decreasing number of child psychologists.
“The consequences are children being diagnosed and prescribed psychotropic drugs by their family doctors,” she said. “Nothing against family doctors … however, the amount of psychiatric training to treat children and provide the appropriate medication and dosage for children is surprisingly much less than even a nurse because there is so much waterfront to cover.”
Volker said many surveyors are now discovering children in need of psychiatric care are frequently being diagnosed by family doctors with Attention Deficit Disorder. The dosages of medications are also a continuous issue.
“They should be given out based on a person’s body weight, however, adolescent bodies shift and change a lot, therefore there are inaccuracies there,” she said.
Also, adolescents are now being exposed to drugs and alcohol more than ever. Volker said mixing Attention Deficit Disorder medications with other substances can be the cause of many accidental suicides.
Other issues that lead to suicide, which are being studied, are bullying and terrorism in schools. Volker said the youngest victims in school shootings are now becoming the victimizers.
What is influencing these situations?
After hearing well-known psychology Professor and Army Ranger Lt. Col. Dave Grossman speak at a recent workshop, it was evident he feels violence stems from children being exposed to aggressive TV programs and video games, said Volker.
“Shoot ‘em up and squashing and smashing type of things,” she explained. “Through these programs and the media, kids are getting violent intake in their psyche.”
She said according to Grossman’s studies, video games now include directions on how best to kill their opponent with various types of weapons.
“He has investigated school shootings and has found that children who have gone and shot up the schools have played certain video games with the violence,” Volker said.
What is the next step?
Volker is working to reach out to the two specific demographic groups pointed out in the IPLAN.
She has already started reaching out to the elderly and is thinking of ways to form sub-groups of community helpers “helping one another” to find needed relief. She has also asked the Optimist Club of Princeton to put their heads together and think of ways to approach and help the youth demographic.
“We need to seek out the possible mental health resources we have and think of innovative ways to get things done in these communities,” Volker said. “Bureau County is good at dealing with their own problems when they know what they are and know the resources they have. We can pool together.”
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