Children and Mental Health
The crisis in mental health affecting children and teens has never been greater. The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that one in five children in Ontario are experiencing mental health challenges, and 70% of lifelong mental health conditions begin in childhood or adolescence (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2019). When should you, as a parent, become worried?
If your child is withdrawing from others, having problems at school, having regular angry outbursts and acting out, drinking and using drugs, challenging authority in inappropriate ways, worrying a lot, unable to sleep, or sleeping too much, engaging in excessive attention-seeking, injuring her or himself, becoming obsessed with her or his weight and eating much less or much more, feeling down on her or himself a lot, increasing risk-taking behavior, lacking motivation, and experiencing mood swings, the time to talk to a mental health professional is now. This is especially true if symptoms are quite severe and persistent and interfere with the child’s or teen’s life.
Common Mental Health Conditions
The most common mental health conditions in children and youth are anxiety, depression, eating disorders, conduct and defiance disorders, attention and learning disabilities (difficulty reading and writing or understanding instructions and communication by others, not taking social cues, etc.), bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and trauma-related symptoms. Signs and symptoms associated with mental health conditions may be caused by traumatic experiences such as abuse, neglect, bullying and other forms of mistreatment, war and dislocation, and natural disasters. These are often at the root of personality disorders, tics, and common childhood symptoms such as fearfulness, clinginess, impulsive and aggressive behavior, and regression to earlier stages of development (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2019).
What Can Parents/Guardians Do?
Parents/guardians often ask “what can I do?” First, take the above symptoms seriously and seek professional consultation. Professionals can help to determine what is normal behaviour for children and youth at various stages of development, and what needs to be addressed. When children are going through difficult times, parents are also often struggling. We are committed to supporting parents/guardians and their children, to help repair broken connections and build stronger relationships in order to deal with situations that arise.
We provide a variety of of treatment therapies. Children often benefit from both Cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) for anxiety and depression, as well as interpersonal therapy that can help adolescents, especially, to improve their relationships with others. Interpersonal therapy helps adolescents to identify distressing feelings and their causes and find ways to address these through improved communication and problem solving (Columbia Department of Psychiatry, 2019). Both treatments have high rates of success in addressing common childhood conditions like anxiety and depression. There are times when a combination of medication and therapy is most effective, however, quite often children and youth respond well to CBT and Interpersonal therapy alone. Please give us a call if you are concerned about your child or adolescent. A Professional may be able to help and intervening early may address any issues that you and your child encounter.