Mental health is a crucial aspect of a child's overall well-being. It is essential for parents, teachers and any adult in your child’s life to understand that mental health is just as important as a child’s physical health. In fact, being aware of a potential mental health condition in children can assist with early diagnosis and treatment, can prevent chronic conditions, can improve academic functioning, and lead to positive outcomes.
Mental health awareness is understanding mental health conditions, knowing what the warning signs are or when to seek help, being open minded to your child’s concerns and feelings, and accepting the responsibility of working on specific goals.
There are many reasons why a child may experience a mental health condition. Some factors include family history of mental illness, trauma, abuse, neglect, bullying, and environmental factors like poverty, discrimination, domestic violence, and social isolation. Problems in children can manifest in various ways, and can come under the umbrellas of anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some of the warning signs include:
- Changes in mood, behavior, or personality
- Difficulty with concentration and attention
- Frequent complaints of headaches or stomachaches with no medical explanation
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Avoidance of social interactions
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
Parents, teachers, and caregivers play a crucial role in promoting mental health awareness while supporting children in the healing process. They can start by talking openly about mental health issues and educating children about their emotions and feelings. Encouraging children to express their feelings and providing a safe and supportive environment can help children feel heard and validated. Moreover, building resilience skills through modeling and practicing problem-solving, communication, and coping skills can help children manage stressors and challenges more effectively, now and in the future.
It is also important to seek professional help if you suspect your child is struggling with their mental health. Mental health professionals such as therapists and psychologists can provide comprehensive evaluations and develop treatment plans that meet children’s individual needs. Treatment options may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes or a combination of supports. These early interventions can prevent worsening symptoms and improve the child's functioning overall.
By recognizing warning signs of mental health issues, promoting open communication, and seeking professional help, when necessary, we can support children’s growth, resiliency, and happiness so they may lead healthy and fulfilling lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health difficulties or you would like to learn more about available supports, call the California Mental Health Hotline at (866) 903-3787.