Children’s mental health shouldn’t be overlooked.

“She’s going through a phase.” “He’ll grow out of it.” These are common statements adults use to explain or justify children’s behavior. We’re so quick to label kids mischievous, reserved, or hot-tempered that we often fail to consider the potential reasons behind their actions. A child’s personality can definitely influence their demeanor, but so can their experiences — especially if those experiences are particularly traumatic. When we dismiss their behavior as being temporary or explain it away through age or gender we miss an opportunity to help a child or teen who might be struggling with a serious issue.

What can harm children’s mental health?

We all know how difficult the process of growing up can be. Figuring out who they are and understanding their bodies are just two of the major puzzles young people work through everyday. These stresses are compounded when something negative happens to a child or adolescent, and if left unaddressed, can lead to mental disorders. Possible examples of these harmful circumstances include:

  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Excessive academic or extracurricular pressures
  • Witnessing violence
  • Divorce
  • Poverty
  • Sickness or death of a loved one

Types of mental disorders in children and youth

Just like adults, kids are capable of exhibiting the following mental health problems:

  • Stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Eating disorders (ex: anorexia or bulimia)
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Diagnosis and treatment

The warning signs of mental illness in children and teens aren’t always obvious, so it’s best to take your child to their doctor or a mental health specialist. A professional will be better able to isolate your child’s symptoms, if any, and design a treatment plan customized specifically for them. If you’re unsure of where to find a specialist for your child, there are mental health services you may be able to access through their school, a clinic or hospital, or even a research facility such as a university. Treatment options could include medication, therapy, or a combination of the two depending on your child’s condition.

More resources on children’s mental health

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Also published on Medium.