Mental health is a real and serious issue faced by many of societies youth; up to 10% of adolescents are diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and an even higher 20% experience mental health issues without diagnoses or intervention in any given year.
As a parent, seeing your child struggle with mental health issues, or worse – learning that you failed to recognize that there is a problem – can be devastating. Fortunately, this does not have to be the case; there are a number of actions you can take to help promote good mental health for your child.
Watch For Signs
It’s true that it can be difficult to recognize the signs of mental illness, especially in children – often times the signs that can relay mental illness are also common behaviours typical of children going through various phases and moods as they grow and mature.
These types of behaviours can include: school grades dropping, avoiding people, throwing tempers, changes to sleeping or eating habits, excessive worrying, lack of energy or motivation, etc.
If you notice any of these behaviours, do not assume immediately that it is mental illness, but be sure monitor them; if you notice they are becoming more intense, they are interfering with your child’s daily activities, or they seem inappropriate to what stage in life your child is at, then you may have cause for concern.
Listen and Show Support
If your child truly is struggling, they need to know that you are there for them.
Speak to them about their concerns, how they are feeling, and why they feel the way they do; and then listen – really listen.
This means don’t downplay how they’re feeling – specifically don’t try to tell them they shouldn’t feel that way.
If your child is struggling and they are speaking with you about it, they need to feel that their feelings are valid and that you understand and are there to support them, not to judge them. They need to know they have a safe environment for sharing.
Speak to A Professional
It can be difficult to recognize the signs of mental illness in children, and even more difficult to know how to handle it; if this is the case, you should consider contacting a trained child psychologist.
Not only can a professional act as a great resource for you (being the parent of a child suffering from mental illness), but they also provide your child with a safe space for discussions and offer potential solutions tailored specifically to your child.
It’s Never Too Late
It’s never too late to start a discussion with your child, to show them support and love, and to find them additional help if needed.
If you recognize any signs of mental health issues surrounding your child, speak with them, listen to them, love them, and seek aid from someone who can offer them support and solutions.