Learn the Signs: Identifying Childhood Mental Health Disorders

Posted on September 10, 2013

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mental-illness-symptoms

If you take a look inside any of your local K-12 classrooms, it’s extremely likely that you’ll see a student who is suffering from a mental health disorder sitting amongst his or her peers. That’s because 1 out of 5 children ages 3 to 17 in the United States experience a mental health disorder in a given year, two-thirds of whom have not been diagnosed or who are not receiving effective treatment.

Childhood mental disorders are not limited to any one ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic status. Millions of American children – including our own friends, family and loved ones – currently live with depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, behavior disorders, or a host of other mental health issues (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mental Health Surveillance Among Children – United States, 2005-2011). Without early diagnosis and treatment, these disorders can have lifelong impacts that affect the way children learn and grow.

As parents, teachers, school administrators and health care professionals, we all have the responsibility of looking after the mental health needs of our youth. As coaches, neighbors and family members, we too can be proactive in helping guide children to lead healthy, rewarding lives. By learning how to identify the signs early and by familiarizing ourselves with the resources available in our community to help diagnose and treat children’s mental health disorders, we can all help make a significant difference in a child’s life.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR (Shared from www.mentalhealth.gov)

Consult with a school counselor, school nurse, mental health provider, or another health care professional if your child/student shows one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
  • Seriously trying to harm oneself, or making plans to do so
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
  • Involvement in many fights or desire to badly hurt others
  • Severe out-of-control behavior that can hurt oneself or others
  • Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to make oneself lose weight
  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still that puts the student in physical danger or causes problems in the classroom
  • Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Drastic changes in the student’s behavior or personality

WHAT YOU CAN DO (Shared from www.walkinourshoes.org)

Parents and Family Members:
Mental illness may not feel like the most important topic to discuss with your child, but as a parent, your role is critically important in learning about, early identification of, and accessing support and treatment for mental illness.

Stigma related to mental illness is one of the primary barriers that keep people from seeking and receiving treatment. It also prevents parents from getting help for their kids. As a result, loved ones who need help and support may suffer alone. This is alarming, because with support and treatment, up to 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with a mental illness have a significant reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life. Click here to read more about what you can do as a parent.

Teachers, Coaches, and School Administrators: Mental health challenges are more common than you may realize, yet as educators we play a crucial role in introducing the subject of mental health to our students. You have probably dealt with students who struggle with their own mental health challenges. Click here to read more about what you can do as an educator. 

Let’s ALL equip ourselves with the tools to recognize early signs of mental health problems among youth and familiarize ourselves with the resources available for treatment. Mental health challenges are far too critical and far too prominent to ignore.

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