Raising a child can be very challenging. Parents constantly want to be there for their children no matter what. Taking into account their mental health is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of mental health issues so that they are treated as soon as possible and don’t get worse.
Mentally healthy children possess age-appropriate social skills and coping mechanisms and reach the same developmental and emotional milestones as their peers. Their quality of life is positive, and they can function well at home, school, and other social settings.3
Children with mental health disorders experience serious differences in how they learn, behave, and process emotions. These differences can cause distress and negatively impact daily functioning. Most children experience fears and worries and engage in disruptive behaviors at times. Severe symptoms that interfere with school, home, and other activities may indicate a mental health disorder. 3
The quality of a child’s mental health may vary from child to child, even in those who are not diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Children who do not have a mental illness experience different levels of well-being, and children with the same mental health disorder may have different strengths and weaknesses regarding their development, coping skills, and quality of life. 3
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a surge in mental health issues for children of all ages. Between March and October of 2020, the percentage of children who visited the emergency department of hospitals for mental health emergencies increased by 24% for children aged 5 to 11 and 31% for children aged 12 to 17. Among girls aged 12 to 17, visits to the emergency department for suicide increased 50% compared to 2019 visits. 10
This surge in mental health emergencies results from the ongoing stress, fear, grief, and uncertainty related to the pandemic. Over 140,000 children have lost a parent or grandparent caregiver due to COVID. Additionally, many families have lost jobs and have temporarily lost necessary support from their school, health care services, and other community programs that could not meet in person. 10
The stress and trauma associated with COVID-19 can have long-lasting effects on developing children and teens, even with the availability of vaccines for children who are old enough. It is increasingly essential to check in on children, keep in mind the signs of mental health disorders, and seek treatment when necessary.10
If your child is exhibiting signs and symptoms of a mental illness, it is essential to seek a mental health professional for an evaluation.
A mental health evaluation for your child can help clarify what is going on and provide recommendations for what to do next. The evaluation will also create an opportunity to understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses and determine the most beneficial plan of action. This evaluation will include: 2
A mental health professional will review the evaluation results to determine if the symptoms your child is experiencing are a response to changes or stress at home or school or the manifestation of a mental health disorder. 2
If the mental health professional decides that your child has a mental illness, they will make specific treatment recommendations based on your child’s needs. Treatment recommendations may include psychotherapy, medication, family counseling, and support for parents. 2
Individual or group therapy sessions for parents provide them with training and support for managing their child’s problematic behaviors. In individual sessions, a therapist will often coach parents on communicating with their child, and help them gain access to accommodations at work and school. Group sessions allow parents to talk with other parents who may provide helpful strategies that have worked for them. 2