Mental health of children

Contributed by : Palak Vyas, Juhi Mishra   
Mental health of children

It is necessary to pay as much attention to mental health as physical health. Treating mental health problems at the right time is important so that a child has a happy childhood.

Children experience mental health issues when they feel pressurised, when they feel that they are not being heard, or when they are going through something.

Signs that your child might have mental health issues:

  • Mood changes. Look for feelings of sadness or withdrawal that lasts at least two weeks or severe mood swings causing problems in relationships at home or school.
  • Intense feelings. Be aware of feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason or when the child is not able to express the reason of his fear.
  • Behaviour changes. These include drastic changes in behaviour or personality, as well as dangerous or out-of-control behaviour. Fighting frequently, using weapons and expressing a desire to badly hurt others are warning signs.
  • Difficulty concentrating. Look for signs of trouble focusing or sitting still.
  • Unexplained weight loss. A sudden loss of appetite, might indicate an eating disorder.
  • Physical symptoms. Frequent headaches and stomach aches could also be a sign of underlying mental health issues.
  • Physical harm. Sometimes a mental health condition leads to self-injury, also called self-harm. This is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. Children with a mental health condition also might develop suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide.

Treatment of mental illness in children: As soon as you see one or more of the mentioned signs, or a combination of few signs, consult a psychologist.

The treatment includes:

  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or behaviour therapy, is a way to address mental health concerns by talking with a psychologist or other mental healthcare provider. During psychotherapy, a child might learn about his or her condition, moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviours. A few counselling sessions can help your child cope with the situation.
  • Medication. Your child's doctor might recommend that your child take certain medications — such as stimulants, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, anti-psychotics or mood stabilisers — to treat his or her mental health condition.
  • Some children benefit from a combination of approaches.

Helping your mentally ill child:

  • Your child needs your love and support. Talk to the doctor and adapt new ways to handle his/her illness.
  • Seek ways to relax and have fun with your child. Praise his or her strengths and abilities.
  • Consider seeking family counselling or the help of support groups, too. It's important for you and your loved ones to understand your child's illness and his or her feelings, as well as what all of you can do to help your child.
  • To help your child succeed in school, inform your child's teachers and the school counsellor that your child has a mental health condition.
  • If you're concerned about your child's mental health, seek advice. Don't avoid getting help for your child out of shame or fear.

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