Oftentimes, we excuse our children from having mental health problems because we want to protect them from the stigma of being labelled. Instead, we prefer to accept that they will simply “grow out of it”. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 children have a mental health issue, and 2/3 of them don’t receive mental health treatment. Those without treatment may indeed improve on their own, especially with good guidance and learning how to cope with the problems they are having. However, oftentimes, these children develop further mental health problems as they grow into adulthood because their problems were never acknowledged and they didn’t receive ways to deal with their struggles.
Oftentimes, children reveal their symptoms through their behaviors and is oftentimes seen in how they are functioning within the home, at school and/or in their social interactions. Common behaviors include a decline in school performance or poor grades, repeated refusal to go to school or take part in normal activities, persistent disobedience, frequent temper outbursts and increased irritability, sleeping and eating problems, withdrawal from others, frequent tearfulness, increased worry or anxiety, being quite fidgety or hyperactive, and the list goes on. Without treatment success, potential consequences include school failure, involvement in the criminal justice system or legal problems, social services involvement and possible placement, self-injurious behaviors, sexual promiscuity, or suicide.
There are various screenings that are helpful to identify if a child is reaching their full potential or if they are heading towards emotional, attentional or behavioral problems. Kids have lots of stress in their lives. They need adult help. Let’s do what we do best – take care of our hurting children.
Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW