The Children’s Society says that 70% of mental illness cases involving children and adolescents go without receiving the right care at the right age. So, if you thought psychiatric disorders were a problem of grown-ups only, that isn’t right.
From developmental problems to abuse, constant change, extended illnesses, bullying, etc., a lot contributes to a child’s declining mental health. A lot of these factors are, at times, uncontrollable. What you can do, though, is keep an eye out for the following signs to sniff such an issue out. Keep in mind that an early diagnosis is crucial to help a child suffering from mental illness. Crucial to provide them with a healthy chance of living a normal life ahead.
Signs of a Child’s Declining Mental Health
The most significant sign of an underlying problem is a child simply not being themselves for extended periods. Many caregivers disregard these behavioural changes by considering them mere passing phases and, later, as personality traits. The confusion is understandable. The line is, indeed, at times, pretty thin and groggy. However, as an adult, the key giveaways are the problem’s context and how sudden and lengthy it has been.
For instance, suppose you recently moved places. Your child was decently upbeat about the change initially. However, after the move, you suddenly observe them trying to withdraw from the new environment. They are not particularly excited about school, seem lazy all the time, are never up for their favourite eateries anymore, etc. There is a real danger that the child is depressed. Get help. Especially if this continues for more than two weeks.
Other signs that you could look out for are:
- Altered Eating Habits
- Mood Swings
From extreme emotions to quickly getting irritated, and from changing eating habits like having too much or too little, to easily and frequently getting emotional, it can all be a sign. Your child may be seeking attention, and you must give them that.
- Weight Changes
- Upset Stomach
Take extreme weight loss or gains due to a sudden eating disorder seriously. They may be emanating from either your child’s mind being occupied with thoughts more important than food for them or from finding comfort in food. Similarly, frequent complaints of headaches and upset stomachs may also mean more than a simple bug.
- Anti-Social Behaviours
- Avoiding School or Game
If your child was sporty and hard to keep in no matter what, and suddenly they aren’t, there is definitely a cause for worry. Similarly, if they avoid school or have started performing poorly in academics, try to investigate what has gone wrong. Or better, involve a professional.
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Interest in Death
- Animal hurt
Hurting themself or someone they can control signals towards a lot of serious problems. It may mean that the kid is somehow missing control over a part of their life, perhaps due to bullying or damaged self-esteem, or it may mean a ton of other things. Let a professional guide you and your child.
Also, if you notice their growing interest in death, in having inquisitive conversations with you, or seeking the answers elsewhere (internet, books, family members, etc.), there is no good reason to take it casually. Especially if the curiosity is not event-specific (death in the family or a school-related activity) and doesn’t settle long after the event is over.
Remember, the earlier you spot these signs, the better. Start with a conversation. Tell the child that you can help them make the problem go away, and that they can trust you and always come to you. Your proactiveness may not only shorten your child’s psychiatric struggle, but it may also save them a lot of possible physical harm. Most importantly, seek professional help to get the mental health of your child assessed.
However, never in such a state scold your kid, make fun of their seemingly minor issues, or force them into doing something they don’t want to do. You can seek the help of Annie’s Place if you want it all handled professionally.