Recognizing Mental Health Problems

Mental Heatlth MonthAs school begins to wind down and families prepare for summer, an important awareness campaign is being launched: Mental Health Awareness Month. Of particular interest is the way that mental health disease impacts the children in our society.  Studies have found that 1 in 5 children are living with a diagnosable mental health problem and two-thirds of these children get little or no help.  Untreated mental problems can negatively impact a child’s ability to function successfully both at home and in school.  These children are more susceptible to experience failure in school, encounter the criminal justice system, feel depressed, and have an increased risk of suicide.  Typically, parents wait 8 to 10 years from the onset of symptoms to seek intervention for their child.

If your child has any of the following signs, they may need professional help:

  • Decline in school performance
  • Poor grades despite a strong effort
  • Constant worry or anxiety
  • Repeated refusal to go to school or to take part in normal activities
  • Hyperactivity or fidgeting
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Depression, sadness, or irritability

If you suspect that your child is suffering from any of these symptoms or if you have questions about them, seek help immediately.  Your child’s pediatrician and the Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions are here to help.  Your child can undergo a comprehensive assessment that may confirm or rule out possible mental conditions such as a learning disability, developmental delays, ADHD, or depression.  With early identification, your child can avoid unnecessary struggles and live a successful life.

Mental Health America
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Child Mind Institute

What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health

Many parents understand and recognize their child’s need for good physical health but do not think about supporting their child’s mental health.  Good mental health allows children to think clearly, develop socially, and learn new skills.  In order to meet their child’s basic mental health needs (receive unconditional love from family, build self-confidence and high self-esteem, play with other children, have supportive teachers and caregivers,  receive appropriate guidance and discipline, and live in safe and secure surroundings), there are many things that parents can do to support their child’s mental health:

  • Love your child despite his or her accomplishments and failures.  Mistakes should be expected and accepted.
  • Nurture your child’s confidence and self-esteem.
    • Praise them and be an active participant in their activities
    • Help your child set realistic goals
    • Be honest about your own failures
    • Avoid sarcasm
    • Encourage your child to always try their best and enjoy the process, not the product of their efforts
  • Make time for play.  Running around and playing with peers helps children be physically and mentally healthy.  Through play, children discover their own strengths and weaknesses, develop a sense of belonging, and learn how to get along with others.  You can play with them, too.  Games and coloring give you an opportunity to connect with your child.  Monitor “screen time” and set limits on TV, computer/ipad/phone use, etc.
  • Children need to know that certain behaviors are unacceptable and have consequences.  Be firm, but kind and realistic, with your expectations.  Criticize the behavior (“In our house we do not hit.”) rather than the child (“You are a bad boy or girl.”)  Explain why you are disciplining them and what the consequences of their actions are (“You are going on time out because you could have really hurt yourself or someone else.”)
  • Provide a safe and secure home where your child is able to share his or her fears.  Be loving, patient, and reassuring: fears are very real to children.

Helping your child develop good mental health is just as important as helping them have good physical health.  If you suspect that your child is experiencing mental health problems, contact your child’s pediatrician or the Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions to seek help.

Source: Mental Health America

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