You only have to watch the news or read a paper to see the effects of mental health illnesses on our young people. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24.
The fact is that 1 in 5 children, ages 13-18, have or will have a serious mental illness. If you put together the other statistic that a whopping 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness, this should cause everyone to stand up and realize the problems that are students are facing. Another statistic that is very disturbing by the NAMH is that there is an 8-10 year average delay in treatment between the first symptoms and intervention. This alarming statistic could be in part due to a lack of education about mental health, lack of financial resources, a lack of knowledge on where to get help and mental health issues with the adults in the home, as well.
Mental Health in children can be hard for parents to identify and although children can develop the same mental illnesses as adults, their symptoms may be different. Some of the warning signs to look for are:
• Mood changes: feelings of sadness or withdrawal that lasts at least two weeks.
• Intense feelings: feelings of overwhelming fear with no reason- sometimes manifest physical symptoms such as a racing heart or fast breathing.
• Behavior changes: drastic change in personality, dangerous, out of control behavior, voicing a desire to hurt others.
• Difficulty concentrating: inability to sit still in class, poor performance in school.
• Unexplained weight loss: unexplained loss of appetite, use of laxatives, throwing up.
• Physical symptoms: more complaints of stomachaches and headaches rather than sadness or anxiety.
• Physical harm: acts of self-harm such as cutting or burning, suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide.
• Substance abuse: kids use alcohol or drugs to cope with their feelings.
If you see any of the above warning signs in your child or something just seems off, please don’t delay in asking for help. Call your family doctor or get a referral to a mental health professional. Talk to your child’s school. Teachers, nurses, school counselors and mental health therapists have many resources available to them to get the help your child may desperately need. For more information on mental health in children visit www.nami.org (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and www.aacap.org (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry).
References: Mental Illness in Children: knowing the signs-www.mayoclinic.org; Mental Health Facts: Children and teens- www.nami.org
Sad teenage girl. Photograph. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2 Mar 2017.
quest.eb.com/search/132_1422815/1/132_1422815/cite. Accessed 6 Oct 2017.