What Do You Know About Your Child’s Mental Health?
We take our kids to the GP or paediatrician on a regular basis to get their physical health checked. If there’s a hint of a serious problem that needs treatment, we’re on the phone, at a walk-in, or in the emergency room. Our parents treated our physical health with the same kind of respect, so we do it for our kids.
But our kids’ mental health rarely, if ever, crosses our minds. There are a few reasons for that. One is the stigma that metal illness carries and our refusal to believe that our precious little one could be “crazy”. That’s a word that you should burn out of your vocabulary by the way. It oversimplifies a vast spectrum of problems with diverse causes and symptoms. Another reason mental health isn't on our radar is we divorce mental health from “normal” medical practice. Psychiatry is just another medical specialty, like cardiology or paediatrics. That means your GP can cover mental health too.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario estimates that 1 in 5 kids suffers a mental health disorder serious enough to affect daily life. That number is an estimate because these disorders so often go unreported and untreated.
It’s not always easy to spot mental health problems in our kids. Cuts, scrapes, fevers and colds are obvious and we’re used to looking for those. Many mental health disorders, like anxiety, depression, and AD/HD, take keen observation of your child’s behaviour to detect.
It’s important to pay attention to your child’s behaviour, and talk about it with your family doctor. Aggressive behaviour, excessive worrying, anti-social behaviour… These things aren’t always “just a phase” your kid is going through. He or she might be suffering on the inside.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario is a great resource for. There’s also plenty of general info at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s website. Mental health concerns are much more common than we think, but they’re also treatable!
Even the slightest bout of anxiety or depression can be a heavy burden for a child to carry. Giving our kids the best chance at a successful, happy life means taking their mental health into consideration. So do some more reading, watch out for behavioural symptoms, and talk to your family doctor about mental health.