Mental Illness in Children-Help Break the Stigma


In this country, there is a distinct stigma surrounding mental illness. Nobody wants to be known as “mentally ill” or “crazy” so it is a discussion that is often swept under the rug. With the suicide of comedian Robin Williams and more celebrities such as Jared Padalecki coming out and talking about depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, there is a slow progression towards acceptance that may help sufferers feel more comfortable admitting that there is a problem and work toward becoming more emotionally healthy.

Unfortunately, mental illness is not just something that affects adults. Children can suffer from the same illnesses, but different symptoms may appear. It is important to be aware of the signs of mental illness in children, so that you can offer help and support if they need it.

Signs of Mental Illness

Children are growing and developing, so behavioral changes are normal and to be expected. This can make it difficult to recognize signs that there may be a mental issue. Triggers such as the birth of a younger sibling, a death in the family, or other traumatic event may also cause behavioral changes-but these things can also trigger mental or emotional disorders. If your child is showing signs of a mental illness, it may be best to talk to a doctor about what your child is experiencing in order to catch any issues early.

The following are a few signs to watch out for:

  • Changes in appetite or sleep habits
  • Behavioral problems at home, school, or in public settings
  • Social withdrawal or unusual fears
  • Frequent sadness or tears
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as head-banging

Diagnosis and Treatment

Mental illnesses in children are diagnosed the same way as with adults: by observation from a physician or mental health specialist. Family history and traumas are examined as part of the screening, so it is important to be completely honest. Once a child has been diagnosed with a mental illness, medications may be prescribed to help correct chemical imbalances and counseling may also be recommended. Parents should be encouraging and supportive to avoid triggers and help the child work out frustrations.

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