It’s natural for parents to worry about their children’s well-being, including their mental health. Concerns about kids’ mental health have been increased by the pandemic. In fact, a new report from Pew Research reveals that worries about mental health are at the top of the list of parental concerns.
There are good reasons for this. 37% of U.S. adolescents in a CDC survey said that they were not in good mental health during most or all of the pandemic. 44% felt sad or hopeless every day for more than two weeks during the previous year. While it’s normal for children to experience emotional ups and downs, certain behaviors or symptoms may indicate that your child is struggling with a mental health condition. When is it time to worry about your child’s mental health?
Changes in mood or behavior
If your child’s mood or behavior has changed significantly and they seem unhappy, irritable, or withdrawn for an extended period of time, it may indicate an underlying mental health issue. For example, if your child used to be outgoing and now avoids social situations, it may be a sign of social anxiety disorder.
Difficulty sleeping or eating
Changes in sleep or eating patterns can also be a sign of mental health issues. If your child is having trouble sleeping or is consistently sleeping more or less than usual, it could be a sign of depression or anxiety. Similarly, changes in eating habits, such as eating significantly more or less than usual, could indicate an eating disorder or depression.
Poor academic performance
Mental health issues can also affect a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school. The pandemic caused disruption in schools across the country, but if your child has suddenly started performing poorly, it’s worth exploring whether there may be an underlying mental health issue.
Mental health issues can also manifest as physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach aches, or other bodily pains. While these symptoms can be caused by physical illness, they can also be a sign of stress or anxiety.
If your child is engaging in self-harm, such as cutting or burning themselves, it’s important to seek professional help immediately. This behavior can be a sign of a serious mental health condition, such as depression or borderline personality disorder.
Substance abuse is often linked to underlying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma. If your child is using drugs or alcohol, it’s important to seek professional help to address the underlying issues that may be driving this behavior.
Thoughts of suicide
If your child is expressing thoughts of suicide, it’s essential to take immediate action. Contact a mental health professional or call emergency services if necessary. You can call or text 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 for free, confidential support for people in distress or crisis as well as prevention and crisis resources.
It’s important to remember that mental health issues are common, and seeking help for your child is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, seeking help early can improve outcomes and prevent the condition from getting worse. Here are some steps you can take if you’re concerned about your child’s mental health:
- Talk to your child. Start by having an open and honest conversation with your child about your concerns. Listen to their perspective and validate their feelings. It’s essential to approach the conversation in a non-judgmental and supportive way.
- Create a supportive environment. Encourage your child to engage in activities they enjoy and spend time with supportive friends and family members. It’s also important to create a safe and supportive home environment that allows your child to express their feelings without fear of judgment or criticism.
- Advocate for your child. If your child needs accommodations at school or other settings, advocate for their needs and work with professionals to create a support plan.
- Seek professional help. Consult with your doctor. They can provide guidance on the best course of action. They may recommend your child see a counselor or psychiatrist.
NWA Psychiatry, a MANA clinic offers care for emotional, mental, behavioral, and developmental concerns in children and adolescents including ADHD, depression, anxiety, behavior problems, and eating disorders. Drs. Lance Foster and Randall Staley are board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry and have openings for new patients. Learn more about child and adolescent psychiatry.
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