May 3, 2021 By Dr. Todd Thatcher, DO, CMO A 2016 survey found that one in six American children between the ages of 6 and 17 live with a treatable mental health condition, including depression, anxiety, or ADHD. This research also found that nearly half of these children did not receive treatment from a mental health professional. Since the recent pandemic, these numbers may be even higher — especially among those who were already vulnerable. That is why it is more important than ever before to speak to your children about their feelings and experiences. If you are concerned about your child and seek support, here is what you need to know. What Is Children’s Mental Health? Being “mentally healthy” throughout childhood means reaching key emotional and developmental milestones. It also means being able to develop healthy social and coping skills. This allows children to function well in school, at home, and in their communities, resulting in a positive quality of life. Once there are serious changes in the way children behave, learn, and handle their emotions, causing disruptions in everyday life, it’s important to investigate your concerns. Once symptoms become persistent, severe, and interfere with everyday activities, your child may be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. This is the first step in getting your child the help they need to live a high-quality, healthy life. Mental Illness in Children Many parents are surprised to learn how common mental disorders are in children. Since there is no single cause and each individual is unique in terms of their prognosis, mental illness in children can be challenging for parents to identify. As a result, many children do not receive the support they need. That is why it’s important to know the potential warning signs. Some of the most common mental health (and developmental disorders) among children include: Anxiety disorders ADHD Autism Eating disorders Depression and other mood disorders PTSD Signs of Mental Illness in Children Here are some of the warning signs you need to be mindful of: Sleeping difficulties Changes in weight and eating habits Persistent sadness that lasts for over two weeks Social withdrawal Extreme irritability Changes in mood, personality, or behavior Concentration issues Avoiding school/showcasing changes in academic performance Headaches and/or stomachaches Why Is It Important to Talk About a Child’s Mental Health? Speaking about your child’s mental health will ensure that they receive the support and resources they need. Childhood mental health conditions can be managed and treated. However, they must be recognized first. An early diagnosis can ensure more positive outcomes. For example, untreated childhood depression may evolve into a substance abuse disorder. Your child may also experience relationship issues or engage in reckless, dangerous behaviors. Once you open up communication, the diagnostic process can begin. This often requires a combination of comprehensive developmental, medical, and mental health assessments. The more educated you are, the more involved you can become throughout their treatment process. Treating mental disorders at any time requires outside support. This is why many accredited professional treatment centers offer structured, family therapy services. Valley Behavioral Health Can Help Your Family For over 25 years, Valley Behavioral Health has assisted thousands of clients, offering personalized treatment. Valley Behavioral Health offers various day treatment programs and services for children and youth ages 6 to 17 years old. Providing children and teens with a safe and supportive environment, they are able to work through behavioral and mental health symptoms, improving their lives at home, school, and within their communities. Contact Us With Any Questions Today!