An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Going along with May’s “B4Stage4” theme dedicated to catching mental health problems before they become critical, (you can find more about that here), we’d also like to take the time to focus on children’s mental health.
Often we like to think that mental health problems usually present themselves in adulthood. We tend to romanticize childhood as something fun and carefree. We don’t often like that view to be spoiled.
But sometimes, that isn’t the case. Odd behaviors in children are often explained as personality quirks but could be a sign of mental illness. Parents and other family members can feel blindsided when, after years of explaining away oddities, a young adult is diagnosed with a mental health issue.
But by that time, it can take significantly longer for your child to recover or learn to manage their mental health condition. How much easier would it be to diagnose and treat children when they first show signs of a mental health problem? What kind of difference would it make in their lives, growing up with the care and support they need?
Parents Can Make All The Difference
Those of us who are parents may fear that our child needs help. We may not want to admit that there’s anything wrong. We might feel that if something is wrong, it is our own fault. Or we may feel that we can handle any of our children’s problems on our own.
But, we must learn to put aside our fears to do what is best for our children.
It’s important to remember that odd behavior is sometimes just that, and isn’t something to worry about. As parents, we know our children better than anyone else. But sometimes, that closeness keeps us from seeing something others can. This may be difficult to acknowledge, but it is important to keep an open mind. If you or others note your child is behaving oddly, it might be the signs of a mental health condition. Don’t be afraid to seek help.You can make a huge difference in your child’s life by treating their mental health problems early. And, if it turns out to be nothing, then you can rest easy.
If something is wrong, then don’t blame yourself. It is not your fault–nor is it that unusual. One in every five children experiences a mental health problem in a given year. Sometimes, children just need a little more help adjusting to the many changes happening around them. And, with that help, many of them will go on to have a happy, healthy life.
Remember, you should feel proud you are doing everything you can to provide the best life possible for your children. If there is a mental health concern, that just means that you have made the right choice to seek help and care for your child.
Another reaction we might have when confronted with the possibility that our child has a mental health problem, is wanting to take care of it ourselves. This is in many ways a very admirable attitude. Wanting to be there for our children is a great goal. But, in this case, the best thing you can do to help is to seek help.
Noticing Warning Signs In Your Children
It can be easy to look at the numbers and wonder at the trend towards more medications for children. It’s tempting to think that psychiatrists are over medicating them instead of just letting them be children. While there may be some truth to that, not everything adds up when we take a closer look at those numbers. More and more children before kindergarten are being treated with drugs to correct mood and behavior. And child psychiatrists aren’t the ones writing the prescriptions, family practitioners are.
An important reason for this increase in mental health treatment is that we’re getting better at identifying and treating mental health issues before they become more serious. That’s why it is so important for parents to know the warning signs of a disorder, so they can help catch the problem before it becomes critical.
Here are some common signs of a mental health disorder in children:
- Anxiety or intense feelings–a little worry is normal and healthy, but if anxiety or fear begin to interfere with your child’s daily activities, you may want to talk to a doctor.
- Difficulty focusing--children are often impulsive and imaginative, but if your child cannot focus on a task for more than a few minutes, this could indicate they have an attention disorder.
- Impulsive behavior and hyperactivity–kids are naturally energetic and hyperactive, but if your child is unable to sit still and often acts unpredictably, this may be a sign a deeper condition may be the cause.
- Problems communicating or getting along with others
- Sadness and withdrawal–we all get sad or down at times, but if your child has persistent feelings of sadness and tends to distance himself or herself from others, talk with your doctor.
- Behavior changes–these include intense mood swings, dangerous or out-of-control behavior, or frequent fights or threats to others.
- A tendency to harm themselves
- Persistent headaches or stomach aches–even more than adults, children with mental health disorders may have physical symptoms or pains.
- Sudden changes in weight
Even if you think your child is happy and mentally healthy, it never hurts to take them in to get a screening. In fact, it’s probably a good idea since usually parents are blind to their children’s mental health problems. Make sure to talk regularly with your child’s teachers, coaches, or doctor about your child’s behavior as well as any concerns they might.
Contact Us For More Information
It’s important to note that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is designed to help disabled Americans. Oftentimes mental health disorders are classified as disabilities.That can be scary all on its own, but its meant to be helpful. When you’re looking for help for your child, remember that the SSA was designed to help you. If you need help with Social Security, please call us at (801)890-1030.