Children are exposed to a lot of different environments as they are growing up. As they grow, they learn new things, their body’s transform, and it’s all a very dynamic process. There are a lot of factors that need to work out properly for a child to smoothly transform into an adult. Many times, this process adversely affects the children, which might lead to mental illnesses.
Just as adults, mental health issues affect children of all family types and cultural backgrounds. Studies have shown that 1 in 10 children suffer from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, psychosis, conduct disorder, etc. About 50-70% of these mental illnesses show up before the age of 18, and thus, have a huge impact on the child’s development.
Most parents are not ready to accept that their child could be suffering from a mental issue because they consider it as an abnormality. However, in reality, either the child is born with such issues, or it’s just a consequence of the environment and circumstance surrounding the child. The parents end up making the matter worse by not taking the help of psychiatrist counselling. It is extremely important for the parents to acknowledge that their child could be suffering from mental health issues and that they should support him/her to come out of this difficult period.
The emotional wellbeing of a child is equally as important as the physical wellbeing. Good mental health allows a young person to cope with change and deal with the various facets of adult life by developing them into mature people that can take care of themselves.
How to recognize if your child is suffering from a mental health issue?
The first and most important step in treating mental health issues is to figure out whether your child is suffering from those. Here are a few symptoms to look for –
- Sadness of mood
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Lack of interest in everything
- Disinterest in pleasurable activities
- Change in eating and sleeping habits
- Thoughts of hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Extreme rage or anger and disappointment
- Extreme thoughts like death or suicide
- Staying away from family or friends
- Lack of concentration
What are the various types of mental health issues?
Once you have identified that your child could have mental health problems, it is important to understand the exact issue. Here, the parents must take the support of a phycologist to better understand the illness of their child. Knowing the type of illness will allow you to make a proper plan so that you tackle it effectively.
Some common types of mental illnesses are:
- Depression: Depression is more common in adults as compared to children. However, it has started affecting more young people today, than in the last few decades. Having said that, depression is seen mostly in teenagers as compared to young children. Depression usually affects the emotions and attitude of your young ones and makes them feel sad and irritated.
- Anxiety Disorder: This disorder is the most common among young ones. About 6% of the kids suffer from this disorder at some point in the childhood and usually happens because the children are afraid of things or situations that happen in their everyday life.
- Conduct Disorder: This disorder is also common in young people. Children who suffer from this disorder are generally averse to rules and can also exhibit an aggressive and destructive attitude towards other people.
- Eating Disorders: Eating disorders generally start in teenage years and are, thus, more common among teenagers than young children. Eating disorders can severely affect the health and physical development of the concerned young person.
- Self-harm: This is another very common problem among young people. Due to certain situations in their lives, young people suffering from this problem feel that by hurting themselves, they can manage their intense emotional pain and suffering. Examples could be cutting or burning themselves.
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): Just under 5% of the young people suffer from this problem and ADHD makes it extremely difficult for them to settle down and keep their focus on things for long.
- Schizophrenia: This is a rare case but it does affect a few young people. This disorder makes it difficult for people to talk and behave in an organised way, with them losing touch with reality in certain cases.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This disorder is a result of witnessing something extremely traumatizing or could be as a result of being a victim of bullying, sexual abuse or violence.
It is important that parents seek help and guidance from doctors and experts to resolve the illness affecting their young ones. This brings us to our next step.
Ways to help children suffering from mental illness
The biggest and most primary support for the children suffering from a mental illness has to come from their parents. As mentioned earlier, it starts with parents accepting the fact that their child is suffering from a mental health issue and then going on to deal with it. If parents can keep a warm and a loving relationship with their children, it makes the situation much easier as children are not afraid to share their discomfort with them. The most important thing here is for parents to listen carefully to their child’s problems and take those seriously.
There is no shame in taking help from a psychiatrist or a doctor for a child suffering from any mental health issue. In fact, it is the best possible way to deal with the issue as psychiatrist and doctors are experts in these matters and can help. The psychologists know how the children suffering from a mental disorder feel and hence, are able to communicate with them in a way that allows them to come out of their shelves and slowly but surely resolve the issue. Also, there is no need to worry because these experts keep all the discussed matters completely confidential. Your family’s information will be completely safe with them.
There are many medications available for children suffering from certain types of mental ailments such as ADHD, mood swings, and anxiety. If you are concerned about the medications and how will they affect your child, then you can have an in-depth discussion with the doctors and they will tell you about the various risks and benefits of the medication.
Sometimes, it helps to meet other people suffering from the same or similar difficulty. This is the logic behind the support group. Children suffering from the same or similar mental health issue come together as a peer group to help better their issues.
Just like adults, even children suffer from mental health issues. It is of utmost importance that the parents recognise the child’s illness and provide the right help and support so that the child can grow up to be a socially and emotionally healthy adult. Remember, mental illness is not a stigma. It is real, common, but definitely treatable.