Their smiling face can brighten your day. Their laughter is your favorite sound. But few parents are prepared to recognize symptoms of mental health problems in their child. Do you know what to look for?
Mental health conditions and disorders don’t only affect adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), research has now shown that most mental disorders follow a developmental course that typically starts early in life. While people commonly recognize conditions known for having onset in childhood, like autism and ADHD, many people who suffer from depression, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia often showed signs before they were 24 years old.
Children often experience intense emotions as they get older or go through stressful or traumatic events in their lives. For example, it is common for children to feel anxious about school or friendships, or for teens to feel short periods of depression after a death in the family. Mental disorders are different. They can cause ongoing, severe symptoms that affect how a child feels, thinks, acts, and disrupts aspects of their daily life like going to school, sleeping or eating. Children may not have the vocabulary or the developmental skills to ask for help. It is important for parents to recognize the warning signs and seek help for their child.
Below are some key warning signs that your child might need help, according to the NIMH:
- Often feels very angry or very worried
- Can’t sleep or eat
- Is unable to enjoy pleasurable activities
- Isolates him/herself and avoids social interactions
- Feels grief for a long time after a loss or death
- Uses alcohol or drugs
- Exercises, diets and/or binge-eats obsessively
- Hurts other people or destroys property
- Has low or no energy
- Smokes, drinks or uses drugs
- Feels like he or she can’t control own emotions
- Have thoughts of suicide
- Harms her/himself, such as cutting or burning his/her skin
- Thinks his or her mind is controlled or out of control
- Hears voices
Mental health problems can be treated. Start a conversation with your child or teen about mental health and break the stigma in your household to make it a more comfortable place for your child to share their feelings. If your child is displaying one or more of the key warning signs, seek help through your company’s EAP benefit, contact EFR for more details.