Harold S. Koplewicz, MD
2014 WebMD Health Hero, Activist
Narrated by Robin Roberts
Read full bio here: http://wb.md/1EpM9WW
The statistics are sobering. “Fifteen million children and adolescents in the U.S. have a psychiatric or learning disorder, and less than half get any help,” says child and adolescent psychiatrist Harold S. Koplewicz, MD. “The diseases that occur before age 24 — OCD, adolescent depression, ADHD — those kinds of diseases are underfunded.” Much of the blame, he says, falls on the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. “People talk about cancer and diabetes and MS and Parkinson’s, but we are still ashamed of our kids who have psychiatric illnesses.” He ticks off the many consequences of untreated childhood mental illness: drug and alcohol addiction, bullying, criminal behavior, suicide, and the rare but devastating episodes of school violence. “Somebody has to speak up for these kids, because left untreated, their lives are really diminished.”
That somebody, it turns out, is him. To combat the lack of funding and research, Koplewicz co-founded (along with philanthropist Brooke Garber Neidich) the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit organization in New York dedicated to children’s mental health care. Since opening in 2009, the Institute has treated about 4,000 kids. It also has fostered collaboration between international mental health researchers to improve understanding of children’s brain development and accelerate the pace of mental health treatment breakthroughs.
Koplewicz’s goal is to make the Child Mind Institute the St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital of childhood psychiatric illness. “They transformed the way we think about childhood cancer in this country and how we treat it,” he says. “We’re trying very hard to shine a light on the face of child psychiatric health.”