Adult disorders affect teens also

Friday, February 8th 2008, 5:37 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

We may have once thought that children were free from the stresses that plague adults, but that's not the case. Thousands of kids in Oklahoma are mentally ill, including one teenager who lives with bi-polar disorder.

Maddy Boehrer, 16, lives in Washington, Okla. Just like other kids, she loves her dogs and her family, but unlike some her age, she's mentally ill.

"When I was living in the old house, I thought I saw my dad, but I didn't," Maddy said. "It was just like a mirage or whatever, but then I learned, it wasn't my dad and I was just hallucinating."

Maddy has psychosis and bi-polar disorder. Along with occasional hallucinations, she can be depressed one moment, and excited the next.

"I get over excited; I start squealing around," Maddy said. "It's kind of embarrassing at times and once I calm down, I wish I didn't do that because it makes me look like a bad person because I can't control myself."

Maddy's mom, Susan, said Maddy and her brothers illnesses are results of substance abuse.

"Both of our kids are adopted and both of them had birth mothers who used substances and so both of our kids also have severe mental illness," Susan said.

Maddy is one of nearly 90,000 children in Oklahoma suffering from mental and behavioral impairments. Her older brother is another.

Child advocate Anne Roberts is working to publicize those numbers and educate.

"There was a joint report by the health department and the mental health department that said these kinds of disorders are actually larger than cardiovascular disease and cancer in Oklahoma," Roberts said.

With the education, Maddy's parents are hoping the stigma attached to mental illness can be erased.

"People just look at Maddy and they think she's weird and she's hard to get along with, but she's really sweet and wants friends but she just needs them to accept her on a different level," Susan said.

Meanwhile, Maddy is just trying to fit in.

"When you walk down those halls you just try to be the best you are, but it's kind of hard when you're bipolar," Maddy said.

One-in-five children from ages 8 to 18 have a diagnosable mental illness or addiction disorder associated with at least some impairment.