As an expectant parent you might play Mozart to your developing baby because it is supposed to increase intelligence. You also probably look at infant toys which promise to stimulate brain development and you give cuddling and positive reinforcement to build baby’s confidence and security. And at the first sign of a cold or ear infection, your little one is whisked off to the pediatrician’s office for a check-up. So why do we tend not to be as attentive about the mental/emotional wellness of our children as they grow? Experts across a range of disciplines warn that mental illness is more prevalent than ever among children, yet parents still seem to be unaware of the risk.
As recently as 2012, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that mental illness has overtaken physical illness on the list of leading childhood disabilities. Physicians say that mental illness is one of the top five childhood disabilities for the first time in three decades showing that the problem of childhood mental illness is on the rise.
Professional psychiatric journals report similar findings saying that one tenth of U.S. children have a serious mental illness and a second ten percent have mild or moderate mental illness. Given the fact that most lifetime mental illnesses form before age 14 years (National Institutes on Mental Health), as parents we should be as watchful over our children’s emotional and behavioral health as we are over his/her physical and intellectual development.
The rise in childhood mental illness means more children are being medicated for emotional and behavioral disorders than at any time prior. But while medications offer effective treatment for some symptoms, it is still critical to address the root causes behind symptoms. Professional therapy helps our children, and us as parents, to uncover some behavioral or situational triggers for the symptoms of mental illness and can show us new ways to work on the underlying problems. Family Guidance Center offers a team of mental health professionals who can help you take the first step with an assessment of mental health symptoms, as well as help you decide on a treatment strategy. As parents we wouldn’t wait if it was the flu … don’t wait if you see your child struggling with a mental health problem.