Children’s Mental Health Matters

22 February 2021 / By Social Media

Mental Health difficulties faced by Children

A large and growing number of children and adolescents worldwide, and specifically in India are facing various mental health difficulties. The Association for Children’s Mental Health (ACMH) has reported that 1 in 5 children and youth have some kind of diagnosable emotional, behavioural, or mental health disorder. At any given point of time, nearly 50 million Indian children suffer from mental disorders, and this number will increase if the adolescent population is considered as well (Shastri, 2009). The National Mental Health Survey of India (2015-2016) had estimated that nearly 7.3 per cent of Indian adolescents (13-17 years) suffer from mental health problems.

One of the biggest challenges in identifying mental health issues in children is usually the fact that childhood is a time of constant behavioural changes and developments. Even under best of the circumstances, one may not be able to differentiate between these changes typical to child development and those which can be a cause of concern. In addition, depending on their age, many children fail to express the reason behind their behaviour and actions. Also, in many cases parents may refrain to notice these changes or seek support for their children due to lack of knowledge or in a bid to avoid social stigma and isolation. But it is important to understand that many mental health disorders can occur during childhood and many adults who seek treatment reflect back on how these disorders affected their childhood and wish that they had received help sooner.

Mental health disorders in children are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviours, social skills or regulation of emotions. These problems are distressing to children and disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school or in other social situations. In several cases, these patterns of thinking, behaving and feeling might not lead to a diagnosable mental health condition but may still cause a negative impact on the overall functioning and well-being of the children.

The prevalence of mental health problems has only increased during Covid-19 pandemic, and this holds true for children as well. By spending more time at home, children are facing various emotional, behavioural and mental challenges. Parents play a pivotal role as they need to pay attention to the behaviour, habits and other mental health indicators to identify whether the child needs support. The first and most important thing is to understand the various common mental health difficulties faced by children:

 Anxiety: Anxiety problems among children usually manifest in the form of fears and worries that reduce their ability to play, participate in school activities or have usual interactions with other children. They might be suffering from social anxiety, OCDs or general anxiety.

 Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Compared with most children of the same age, children with ADHD have difficulty with attention, impulsive behaviours, hyperactivity or some combination of these problems.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological condition that appears in early childhood -usually before age 3. Although the severity of ASD varies, a child with this disorder has difficulty in communication, social interaction and display repetitive behaviours.

Eating disorders: children may become obsessed with a particular body type, losing weight or binge-eating. They may obsess about eating or not consuming a specific type of food item and such behaviours can lead to physical deficiencies, inability to perform certain tasks and even social inactivity.

Depression and other mood disorders: Depression is when the child starts to consistently feel sad and disinterested in activities. This leads to them becoming withdrawn and less interactive at school. Extreme mood swings and emotional distress can also lead to bipolar disorder.

Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD): Long-term emotional discomfort, anxiety, nightmares and unpleasant memories caused by physical abuse, illness, injury, bereavement or any form of bullying and violence can lead to long-term emotional distress.

Mental health in children is crucial and can be prevented or treated with right kind of professional help; guidance, support and encouragement from parents, teachers and peers. Healthy and unconditional motivation and support can enable children to develop self-belief in a responsible and sustainable manner. It is also important to include and work with the child’s school to seek necessary support.

References:
Children and mental health. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/children-and-mental-health/index.shtml
Here's why parents need to address mental health issues in children. (2020, December 16).
Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://indianexpress.com/article/parenting/health-
fitness/heres-why-parents-need-to-address-mental-health-issues-in-children-7107570/
Worried about your child's mental health? (2020, February 26). Retrieved February 16, 2021,
from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/mental-
illness-in-children/art-20046577

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