The Mental Health of your child is important
As a parent, we typically are concerned about our children’s academic performance, diet and physical health, as well as disciplining them. But we do tend to forget their mental and psychological well-being, which in turn has an impact on the child’s overall functioning as well. In the context of both children and adolescents, this would include the ability to form relationships, perform academically, display appropriate behavioural patterns, and have control over their thought processes and be in charge of their own emotional experiences.
Significance of Children’s Mental Health
A glance at the rising statistics suffices to indicate the growing prevalence of mental illnesses, especially amongst the children and adolescents. Close to 15 million individuals are battling with some form of mental health related illness in India. 10% of all children suffer from some form of mental health issue and more than 50% of these go untreated and many more undetected.
Such concerns are often magnified in children as they are not as equipped as adults are to deal with difficult emotions, being able to identify them or knowing effective coping strategies to handle them. Children’s lack of a comprehensive vocabulary to be able to describe their experiences further contributes to the challenge posed by the situation. In fact, as children are unable to verbally express themselves so adeptly, it is all the more important for the parents to recognize this and be encouraged to be available to their children.
Myths and Facts about Child Mental Health
· Can children have mental illnesses? There is abundant stigma associated with mental illnesses till date, stemming from which are some myths, especially for children. In fact, at times it almost becomes difficult for people to believe children to be having mental illnesses. Therefore, it is important to reiterate that children can have mental illnesses.
· Do childhood mental illnesses persist throughout life? There are many psychiatric disorders which can have an early onset in childhood. In fact, the developmental disorders are not necessarily a label for the individual life long, and most of the times can be overcome with adequate and timely identification and interventions.
· Do children outgrow mental illnesses? Children with mental illnesses cannot outgrow them with age. A mental condition in childhood would not simply ‘outgrow’ with age. These are disorders that requires adequate psychiatric as well as psychological interventions to be treated.
· Could mental illnesses be a result of bad parenting? No, mental illnesses are not the result of bad parenting. While stressful situations do play a major role in the exacerbation as well as maintenance of mental illnesses, stress alone cannot lead to the development of the illness without the presence of other etiological factors. Most of the psychiatric disorders are formed due to multiple interactions of biological, psychosocial and genetic factors.
Need of the Hour
It is common to come across children with behavioural concerns or those displaying cognitive and emotional deficits. More often than not, some behavioural problems could be an indication of mental health related problems. These can include Depression, Anxiety, Substance Use Related Disorders or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders, to name a few. These disorders can begin in childhood or adolescence and if left untreated they can strengthen over time, frequently progressing into more severe forms.
1. Early identification. Many times, correct identification or intervention does not happen as the adults associated with the child’s life are unaware of the signs and symptoms of these conditions and what the first-steps are to providing appropriate care. Correct and timely identification and intervention is essential to ensure their psychological well-being in the future. Therefore, it is necessary to create awareness and an empowerment amongst us all, especially for teachers, parents or community workers, it is essential to be equipped to handle mental health related challenges.
2. Public-Private-Partnerships. The need of the hour today is to strongly advocate the preventive as well as curative aspects of mental health. The best model to build is an integration of private-public partnerships, so we all could join forces to work towards targeting the very grass-root levels, and help make a difference in the community at large.
3. Preventive measures. We must understand the importance of ensuring the mental health and well-being of children by learning to identify and deal with situations in which the child’s mental health has been compromised as well as working on preventive measures to promote positive mental health.
Intervention and prevention at an early stage can help transform at-risk children into healthy and contributing adults of society. Emphasizing the role of mental health is imperative in ensuring social and emotional well-being and is crucial in the development of adequate coping resources that would help the child learnt to be prepared for and be able to effectively face the challenges of life.