Monsters In My Head - Mental Health In Children
Global statistics are indicating a rise in mental health problems in children and adolescents, with some studies indicating that as many as one in five children struggle with mental illness on a daily basis.
In spite of the increase in children struggling with mental illness, it remains difficult to identify. This is because of the overlap between the signs of mental health problems and normal childhood behaviour. As adults, we are able to say we are feeling anxious, or sad, or tired. Unfortunately, children often lack the vocabulary to name and express what they are struggling with. This means that at least some of the responsibility to identity, and manage, mental health in children rests of the adults in their lives. Common mental illnesses in children include (but are not limited to); Anxiety, Mood Disorders, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Eating Disorders, and Learning Disorders.
What should you be looking for?
Although mental illness can be difficult to identify, here are some signs that may help you identify mental health difficulties in your child.
Change in mood
The development of intense feelings, such as anger or sadness
Sudden / progressive changes in behaviour
Weight loss / weight gain
Physical symptoms such as constant/frequent headaches or tummy pains
Sudden and unexplained decrease in school performance
Frequent and persistent nightmares
Substance use or evidence of substance use
What can you do to help?
As a parent/grandparent it is often difficult to watch a child in our life struggle with mental illness. There are things that we can do to help though, these include:
Encourage open and honest conversations about emotions
Encourage open and honest cover stations about life challenges
Model positive behaviours and habits
Help them to help themselves - encourage them to try new tasks and explore their world
In younger children, spend time engaging in play
Don't diagnose a child based on Dr. Google or advice from friends, seeks appropriate medical and professional guidance
Express support for their struggles
Once you have a formalised diagnosis speak to your child's health care team about what support you can provide
Do your research, based on sources your child's health team recommends
Get support for yourself - parenting a child with a mental illness is hard work, you need some support too.
Stigma around mental health would have us believe that mental illness means that something is wrong with your child / you have done not done a good job as a parent. This is not the case. Getting your child the help and support they require can help them develop into well rounded adults with resilience.