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This series by Eric Litwiller of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas looks at mental health in the Wichita area. It is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

Commentary: Mentorship can make a difference

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Jakob Rosen
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Every parent wants the best for their children. Yet broken homes, stressors we couldn’t have imagined a generation ago, and unhealthy coping mechanisms have become increasingly pervasive in society, and Wichita is far from immune. For children who lack a stable home life, mentoring can make a difference.

Children with a mentor earn higher grades and are much less likely to begin using alcohol or skip school. And they are more likely to go to college and have increased social and emotional development. An adult mentor with even a small amount of training is in a position to notice signs of mental health concerns that – if caught early – can be prevented from turning into mental illnesses years later. This prevention will almost invariably be less expensive and more effective than trying to treat the illness after it has taken hold, and will result in a more well-balanced life for the child.

There are multiple programs in Wichita seeking volunteers to spend even one hour a week with an at-risk youth. For those willing to answer the call, there are plenty of resources for both the mentor and mentee to learn healthy coping skills now, rather than waiting until a full-blown mental illness begins to affect our community. Hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars are spent every year on retro-active treatment services, emergency room visits, and first responders, when those same dollars could have been more efficiently spent preventing the mental illnesses in the first place.