Image is from VFW National Home for CHildren
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is a great time to learn about the signs that your child may have a mental health issue.Being a parent is scary. You worry about your child, and few things cause more worry for parents than feeling that their child has an emotional or mental issue.
Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Sadly, there can be as much as ten years between the first symptoms and diagnosis or treatment. It can be difficult to learn that your child has a mental health issue. However, early diagnosis is often the key to successful treatment. This starts by recognizing the signs that something is wrong.
Depression or Withdrawl
Depression symptoms in children are similar to those in adults. If your child is feeling very sad or not being interested in their normal activities, your child may be depressed. Severe mood swings, personality changes, and drug or alcohol use are also indications that something isn’t right.
Overwhelming fear that results in fast breathing or a racing heartbeat is another indication that there’s a problem. Fear or anxiety that gets in the way of daily activities is another concern.
Dangerous or Out of Control Behavior
If your child gets into frequent fights, brings weapons to school, or has a desire to hurt others, they have anger issues that should be taken seriously. Extreme impulsiveness or lack of control that puts the child or others in danger are also a cause for concern.
Your child not eating, frequently throwing up, or using laxatives can be an indication of an eating disorder. Not eating and frequent stomach issues can also be an indication of depression or anxiety.
If your child suddenly starts performing poorly in school, there is likely an underlying cause. They may have an unaddressed learning issue or an attention disorder. Bullying or lots of stress at home can also affect your child’s ability to perform at school.
Importance of Early Intervention
The sooner mental health issues are identified and treated, the better it is for your child. Mental health problems can impact every aspect of your child’s life. It can affect their ability to make friends and build social relationships. It can cause them to withdraw from physical activities. It can also negatively affect their ability to do well in school. If the issues aren’t addressed, these problems will follow them into adulthood.
It’s estimated that only 7% of children with mental health issues are getting the proper care. Talking with your child is a great place to start. They may be able to give you insight on what they are experiencing. Your school counselor may have insights and suggestions about treatment for your child as well. Another good first step is to speak with your child’s doctor. They should be able to guide you if your child needs treatment, and recommend specific services.
If you suspect that your child has a mental health issue, don’t wait to seek help. Many times these problems get worse over time. Depending on your child’s condition, they may find help with their doctor, a psychologist, a child therapist, or peer groups. Some children may do best with a combination of different types of treatment. All children with mental health issues can benefit from some type of treatment, and the earlier the better.