How To Support Your Child’s Mental Health?

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Supporting your child's mental health involves creating a nurturing environment, fostering open communication and being attentive to their needs. Encourage them to express their feelings, provide a safe space for discussion and actively listen without any judgment. As an adult, looking after your own mental health is crucial in order to keep your child mentally healthy. This will ensure a healthier environment for your child.

 

What Is A Mental illness?

Mental health refers to a wide range of conditions. It affects how you think, regulate your feelings and behave. A mental illness, or mental health disorder, is defined as patterns or changes in thinking, feeling or behaving that are typically associated with distress, impairment in functioning or an increased risk of suffering.

Mental health disorders in children are defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviours, social skills or regulation of emotions. These issues can be distressing to children and have a major impact on their ability to function well at home, in school or in other social situations.

 

Warning Signs That Your Child May Be Struggling With Their Mental Health

Warning signs that your child may have a mental health disorder include:

  •         Change in behaviour, such as increased aggression or withdrawal
  •         Persistent sadness that lasts for two weeks or more
  •         Social isolation by withdrawing or avoiding social interactions
  •         Any sign of self-harm
  •         Loss of interest in activities that they typically enjoy
  •         Drastic changes in mood or personality
  •         Noticeable change in eating habits
  •         Difficulty sleeping
  •         Frequent headaches
  •         Difficulty concentrating
  •         Changes in academic performance

 

Why Is Building Trust Important?

A solid relationship begins with building trust, and your relationship with your kids plays a major role in their mental health. By creating a sense of safety and security trust is gained. Your children need to know that they can rely on you. Find ways to show your children that you love them and that they can trust you.

 

Common Disorders Among Children

Mental health disorders in children may include the following:

 

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders in children are characterised by excessive worry, persistent fears, or unease that significantly impact their ability to participate in play, school or age-related social situations. Diagnoses include social anxiety, generalised anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

 

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Compared with most children of the same age, children with ADHD have persistent patterns of inattention, impulsive behaviours and hyperactivity that can interfere with daily functioning.

 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder and appears in early childhood — usually before age 3. Although the severity of ASD varies, a child with this disorder has difficulty communicating and interacting with others.

 

Eating Disorders 

Eating disorders are characterised by persistent disturbance in eating patterns and a preoccupation with an ideal body type. It involves disordered thinking about weight and weight loss. Eating disorders in children, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge-eating disorder, can result in emotional and physical consequences.

 

Depression and Other Mood Disorders

Depression is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. This cruel disease disrupts a child's ability to function in school and interact with others. Children with depression may exhibit changes in their behaviour, such as irritability and withdrawal from friends and activities.

 

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)+

PTSD is a mental health condition that develops in individuals who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. PTSD is associated with prolonged emotional distress, anxiety, nightmares and disruptive behaviours in response to violence, abuse, or other traumatic events.

 

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a disorder characterised by perceptions and thoughts that cause a person to lose touch with reality (psychosis). Typically occurs in late adolescence or early childhood. Schizophrenia results in hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking, emotions and behaviours

 

How Do Health Care Professionals Diagnose Mental illness In Children?

Mental health conditions in children are diagnosed and treated based on a comprehensive assessment process. A mental health condition can make it more difficult to get insurance coverage, and it might be that you have to pay more because of a pre-existing medical condition.

 

The Importance of Paediatricians

It is imperative to visit a specialist such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, paediatrician or other mental health care professional to make a diagnosis. This process of diagnosing mental illness includes evaluating signs and symptoms and how the condition affects the child's daily activities. It includes a detailed medical examination, medical history, history of physical or emotional trauma, family history of physical and mental health, review of symptoms and general concerns with parents. It also includes the timeline of the child's developmental progress, academic history an interview with parents and observations of the child.

 

Diagnosis Of A Mental Disorder in Children

To make a diagnosis, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a guide published by the American Psychiatric Association, provides criteria based on the nature, duration and impact of signs and symptoms. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) from the World Health Organization is another commonly used diagnostic guideline. 

Diagnosing mental illness in children can be a time-consuming process because young children may have trouble understanding or expressing their feelings, and normal development varies. However, your child's healthcare provider may change or refine a diagnosis over time for better treatment outcomes.

 

What Should I Do If I Suspect My Child Has A Mental Health Condition?

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional if you're concerned about your child's mental health. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in managing mental health challenges.

If you notice concerning behaviours, document them and share this information with a mental health professional. Talk to friends and relatives to see if they have noticed changes in your child's behaviour. 

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