When it comes to mental health issues in children, it is important to realize that these problems can often be mistaken for behavioral challenges that may be unrelated. As a parent it truly can be difficult trying to figure out what these issues may or may not be, especially without any guidance. By the same token, it is also important to understand how serious mental health issues can affect children and adolescents, especially when it is left untreated for years at a time.
When you consider the statistics that around 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illnesses usually begin by the age of 14, it is a sobering thought. Especially when we also see that the average delay of time between the beginning stages of mental health symptoms and actual intervention is in the range of 8 to 10 years. That is a long time for symptoms to set in, which can make it even more difficult to diagnose and treat than if it would have been dealt with earlier.
Seeking out mental health help for your child or children is never an easy thing to admit or do. Many times parents feel as if they are failures, or extremely guilty for not recognizing these symptoms earlier in the life of their children, but parents need to have grace to not hold themselves to that standard. It truly is a difficult thing to detect at times, and many times it is also difficult to even fathom that your child may be suffering from a mental or behavioral health problem. However, mental health professionals have made helping diagnose these problems much easier than in the past decades, and with a focus and plan of attack, many of these psychiatric and behavioral problems can be addressed.
So let’s say that you do suspect that your child is suffering from an actual mental health issue, such as severe and unwarranted anxiety, or is consistently depressed. What should your next move be?
The first step you should take is to consider all of the facts, and pay attention to the warning signs that children with mental and behavioral health issues usually exhibit. Let’s take a look at some of the more common “warning signs” that could tip you off:
- Your child may suddenly experience unexplained fears and anxiety for no reason, and it may come out of nowhere. Physical aspects of this may include an increased heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing and other types of physical signs highlighting fear and discomfort.
- You notice a distinct change in their eating habits. This may include your children refusing to eat, or eating far less than they normally do, as well as going in the other direction, such as eating more than they have before. Significant weight loss or gain will likely be paired with their change in their food intake.
- Being unusually sad or withdrawn for a period of more than two weeks. It is normal for children to experience regular human emotions, such as sadness, depression, fear, uncertainty and others. However, when it occurs for a longer period of time, generally over two weeks, you can be sure that there is something deeper at work and may want to consider looking into it.
- You may notice a dramatic drop in their grades and concentration at school. The issues that your child may be dealing with can potentially affect their ability to concentrate and perform at their consistent level of performance.
- Fears and worries that plague them throughout the normal activities of each day, and create such an issue that they tend to avoid normal activities such as conversation, hanging with friends, and so on.
These are just a few of the more common areas to be aware of when a mental health issue is usually affecting your child. There can be so many different reasons behind why these symptoms appear, but the reality is that it is important to recognize them and consider the next steps. Usually a good next step is to either talk to your child’s doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health specialist or facility, or contact a mental health facility personally, such as Palms Behavioral Health, and reach out for a free assessment. If it is determined that your child is likely suffering from a mental or behavioral health issue, you can then discuss with the mental health professional what the next steps are to take.
If you can draw your child out and touch base with them on where they are at in their lives regularly, it will make it far easier to establish whether there are significant changes in their behavior patterns, and get them the help that they need.