The stigma around mental health is really disheartening and I truly feel like it is putting our kids at such a disadvantage. This makes me so sad. As someone who struggles with depression and occasional anxiety it breaks my heart seeing kids with these needs. Since May 9th is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day I thought I would dig into it a little.
“Mental health in childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones, and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems.” – Center for Disease Control
A mental health disorder is not an occasional bout of sadness or feelings of anxiety but a chronic condition that disrupts everything from school and learning to home life and play activities. Mental health disorders can affect anyone regardless of location, race, gender and age.
Did you know that one in five children have some degree of mental health disorder and less than half of those get the help that they need? That was surprising to me. And only one in five are actually getting help from someone who is a children’s specialist in mental health. (apa.org) Those are some pretty scary numbers. Most of these children and adolescents do not have access to decent health services and it is really bad with low income families, families of color and children who have special needs or other health concerns.
Common mental health disorders are ADHD, anxiety and behavioral disorders. But there are so many more. If these things (and other disorders) are left untreated or addressed it can lead to learning disabilities, social problems like making friends and maintaining those friendships, dropping out of school , physical health problems and even lead to things as serious as substance abuse, self-harm and suicide.
It Affects Us All
Untreated mental health disorders in our youth can have lasting and rippling effects on us as a society. It affects how children learn, behave and handle emotions and these children grow into adults with these same issues. These problems not only affect children and their families but they affect classrooms, playgrounds, schools, communities and even the nation as a whole and could cause these kids to have economic hardships and struggle with the ability to lead independent lives as they grow up.
Figuring It Out
Symptoms of mental health disorders can start in early childhood and change over time and because of this it can sometimes be hard to diagnose. Research shows that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by the age 14 (apa.org) so early diagnosis and treatment is key. Parents and doctors who work closely with teachers, coaches, other family members, therapists etc to treat our youth have more success in addressing poor mental health in our youth. Education for all is so important.
As a mom with a child that suffers from anxiety I am so thankful for our school district. Not only with the Social/Emotional Support Program and Curriculum but with the staff as well. The minute I saw these things start happening, I met with her teacher and school counselor to get her some help. I am grateful for the help we have received so far and my daughter’s teacher is seriously the best. I wish she could be her teacher forever.
What We Can Do
Addressing the mental health of our youth moves us forward and helps erase the negative stigma around it. As well as, hopefully, reducing the problems along the way. This is so important.
“Each year, National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 9) seeks to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health and show that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development.” – American Psychological Association
- Mental health MUST be as important as physical health when assessments of overall healthcare are being made.
- Mental healthcare development for our youth includes social, emotional and behavioral wellness. These things are central to developing a good mental health. Having excellent programs for this is key.
- It is crucial to have programs in place for early recognition in our schools and youth-centered programs. Education is key!
- We should be consistently promoting practices for treating and/or preventing mental health disorders that are facing our youth.
- Recognize that many kids experience trauma from something as simple as feelings of neglect or losing a loved one to something as serious as abuse. Trauma is a huge trigger for mental health issues in children. Having adequate trauma support matters in keeping our kids mentally healthy.
Reminding our kids that IT’S OK NOT TO BE OK and talking with them about their mental health is just as important and addressing physical health issues that arise.
There are a ton of resources out there if you need help so start with your child’s teacher at school or the guidance counselor. Taking your child to your pediatrician is also advised because I am not a doctor or a psychologist. But either way, get some help. It matters. If you do not find the help you need at one place, go somewhere else. A mentally healthy child gets them on the right path to becoming a healthy and successful adult. And it sure makes things easier on them as kids. 🙂
Here are a couple but each site has a ton of resources. There are even links to find a psychologist. Feel free to reach out if you need help. I am here if you need to talk.
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