Because of stigma and lack of knowledge, many children with mental health disorders go undiagnosed. If your child had a mental illness, would you know the signs? Would you know what to do to get them the help they need?
Health experts from the Mayo Clinic say there are signs of which every parent should be aware. For instance, abrupt mood swings interfering with home or school life may be indicative of something needing attention. Despondent behavior persisting for more than two weeks could also be problematic. Professionals advise to watch for lack of focus and behavior that is uncharacteristic for your child. Any verbal threats toward others should always be taken seriously. Additional red flags for mental disorders include a sudden drop in weight, signs of self-harm and substance abuse.
Sometimes it’s difficult for parents to differentiate issues of mental health from typical childhood behavior. It’s easy for any parent to dismiss worrisome behavior as just a “phase.” Other barriers to seeking help include a fear of high costs that might be involved with treatment.
Some of the more common psychiatric disorders experienced by children include anxiety, depression and other mood disorders, ADHD, autism, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Parents who suspect their children might be affected should consult their family pediatrician. It can also be helpful to discuss any concerns with others who have regular contact with your child such as teachers or caretakers to see if they have noted any abnormal behavior.
Diagnosing a child with a mental disorder can be challenging because it can take some children longer to develop than others. Doctors will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a guide as well as family history, input from those who regularly interact with the child, and any information about trauma or physical ailments that may contribute to such conditions.
Family Guidance Center can help parents by offering mental health screenings, referrals, and other informational resources. They also offer treatment options through the Children/Youth Services program. Issues of mental health are nothing to be ashamed of, and children have the best prognosis for treatment when issues are spotted early. If you’re unsure where to turn, the Family Guidance Center can provide support.