Problems with depression, schizophrenia, bipolarity, and other mental health issues are common in today’s youth. One in ten of children will experience a major depression episode and one in twenty Americans have some sort of mental illness. With so many rumors out there, it is time to get the mental health facts.
Depending on the type of mental health disorder, signs may appear before the child is fourteen years old. One unknown mental health fact that is unknown is youth with mental health issues rarely get the help they need. Over 80% of children with a diagnosable disease are not treated for the condition they have. These youth that untreated are more likely to experience relapses into adulthood.
Common Mental Health Conditions
Mental illness can affect anyone regardless of age or ethnicity. There is no rhyme or reason to why children experience one illness over the other. Some of the common conditions in today’s youth are:
•Depression – symptoms can include crying, sadness, change in sleeping habits, and lack of motivation, frequent headaches or stomachaches, excessive anger towards others, talks of self-harm, and increased irritability.
•Autism – this appears in early childhood, normally before three years of age. There are many types of autism disorders but all of them affect the child’s ability to interact and communicate with others.
•Schizophrenia – this mental health disorder stays with the child their entire lives. Anti-psychotic medications are used for people with Schizophrenia because they often lose touch with reality and may have hallucinations.
•Mood Disorders – Bipolar disorder is an example of a mood disorder. Extreme mood swings, either depressed or manic, are a symptom of mood disorders.
•Anxiety Disorders – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Social Phobia are examples of anxiety disorders. A child will have anxiety to the point where it makes it hard for them to function and go to school.
•Eating Disorders – such as Anorexia and Bulimia can make a child hyper focused on their weight. They may excessively count calories, exercise, and do little else except pay attention to their weight.
•Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – hyperactivity, difficulty keeping attention for too long, and impulsive behavior are all symptoms of ADHD. If undiagnosed, this can continue into adulthood.
Most mental illnesses commonly shows warning signs. Signs to look for in a child are:
•Powerful feelings – these could be an overwhelming sense of fear that interfere with every day activities. A fast heart beat and rapid breathing may come with this feeling.
•Hard time concentrating – a child may become fidgety and trouble paying attention which can cause drop in grades and school performance.
•Changes in mood – withdrawal and sadness are common signs of mental illness. The child may not act like themselves, or have mood swings that cause problems in relationships. They may seem sad all the time, like the joy has been torn away from them.
•Changes in behavior – this can be withdrawal from society to out-of-control risky behavior. The child may express feelings of hurting someone or start fighting more.
•Weight changes – often a child with mental illness will lose their appetite or start overeating. Either one of these are a warning sign of a mental disorder.
•Substance abuse – a child may use drugs or alcohol to try and live with their feelings or to get away from it all.
•Self-harm – cutting or suicidal thoughts or actions are large warning signs. If you see these, your child needs help right away.
If any of the warning signs above are present in a child, contact their doctor right away. The doctor will get the child into an appointment and assess them so they can get the help they need.
After a Mental Health Disorder is Diagnosed
The child’s doctor may recommend a therapist, psychiatrist, or both depending on the condition. A therapist uses talk therapy, sometimes known as behavioral therapy, to help the child. A psychiatrist treats the condition with medication.
Whether your child needs medication is up to the psychiatrist. Often, they provide medications such as antidepressants, stimulants, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medication, or mood stabilizers depending on the child’s condition. Medication can greatly impact the child’s health and well-being, making them more open to talk therapy.
During talk therapy, the therapist will discuss the child’s diagnosis with them. By learning more about themselves, the child will better realize what is happening with their body. The child may come to realize that they are okay after understanding their feelings. From there, the therapist will help the child with coping mechanisms to better respond to everyday situations.
Most often talk therapy and medication is combined, thus increasing the benefits of both. The child’s doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist will all work together with the parents to decide on the best course of action for the child.
Help the Child Succeed
Once the child is diagnosed, it is time to get informed. A wealth of information is available both on and offline about a variety of mental health disorders. It is important to read up on the child’s disorder to understand what exactly they are going through.
Talk therapy is also helpful for parent of children who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. The therapist will recommend books, coping mechanisms, and information on the child’s condition. By having the parent and the child attend therapy, they can better understand what exactly they are dealing with and how best to approach the issue in a positive way.
Many rumors on mental health illnesses are out there, but these are the mental health facts. By reading the correct information and taking the right steps, children and parents are more likely to better understand mental health illnesses and get the help they need. This gives the child a better understanding of themselves allowing them to successfully cope with the illness.