World Mental Health Day: Check Early Signs Of Mental Health Disorders In Children And Steps To Take
Every year, World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 and the aim is to raise awareness about mental health issues plaguing the system and the need to talk about the problems faced and seek help, when necessary. Raising awareness about mental health and mitigating stigma associated with it is the chief aim of this day. The World Health Organization (WHO) mentions, “World Mental Health Day 2023 is an opportunity for people and communities to unite behind the theme ‘Mental health is a universal human right” to improve knowledge, raise awareness and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right.”
There is a host of mental health problems – from anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among several others. Interestingly, when we think of mental health issues, we think mainly of adults but the truth remains that mental health issues can crop up in kids too. Alka Kapur, Principal, Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh, shares, “Mental health is a fundamental aspect of overall well-being, encompassing how individuals think, manage their emotions, and behave in various situations. Deviations in age-appropriate thinking, behaviours, social skills, or emotional regulation characterize mental health disorders in children. These challenges not only cause distress to the child but also disrupt their ability to function effectively in their daily lives, be it at home, in school, or within their social circles.”
World Mental Health Day 2023: Understanding Mental Health Problems In Children
As Alka Kapur points out, the most common mental health issues in kids can include anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), pediatric bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), separation anxiety disorder (SAD), PTSD, and autism spectrum disorders.
Mental Health Problems In Kids: Recognising Early Signs
“Understanding a child’s mental health nuances is paramount in ensuring their overall well-being. While mental health issues in children may not always be manifested easily, there are subtle indicators, which if recognized early, can make a significant difference,” shares Kapur. She lists some of the early signs that can indicate mental health problems in kids.
1. Changes In Behaviour
One of the earliest indicators of mental health issues in children is noticeable changes in behaviour. This might include sudden aggression, withdrawal from social interactions, or persistent irritability. Parents and caregivers should be attuned to these shifts, understanding that they can signify underlying emotional distress.
2. Difficulty In Concentration
A decline in academic performance or an inability to focus on tasks can indicate mental health concerns. While it’s natural for children to occasionally struggle with concentration, a persistent pattern might point towards issues like anxiety or attention disorders.
3. Emotional Turmoil
Unexplained mood swings, excessive fears, or intense feelings of sadness without apparent reasons can be signs of underlying mental health issues. Children may not always express their emotions verbally, so adults must observe these emotional fluctuations.
4. Out-Of-Control Behaviour
Children displaying out-of-control behaviour, which harms themselves or others, requires immediate attention. This behaviour may involve aggression, destructiveness, or uncontrollable tantrums.
5. Physical Symptoms
Mental health issues can be manifested in physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or frequent illnesses. While these symptoms can have various causes, especially in children, a consistent pattern alongside emotional changes raises concern.
Reverting to behaviours typical of a younger age, such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking, indicates emotional distress. Regression often serves as a coping mechanism when a child feels overwhelmed or anxious.
7. Change In Sleeping Pattern And Appetite
Drastic alterations in sleeping or eating patterns signify mental health issues. Insomnia, nightmares, or sudden loss of appetite manifest stress, anxiety, or depression in children.
8. Self-Harm Or Suicidal Thoughts
Alarmingly, some children may resort to self-harm or express thoughts of self-harm or suicide. These are clear cries for help and should never be ignored.
Seek Professional Help
While one or two of the above symptoms do not confirm mental health issues, recognising these early signs and promptly seeking professional help is essential. This will provide children, with mental health issues, the support they need to navigate their challenges. “It is important to remember that early support can significantly improve a child’s prognosis and overall well-being. Additionally, fostering an open and non-judgmental environment for children to discuss their emotions and concerns is crucial in addressing mental health issues effectively,” says Alka Kapur.