Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a local San Antonio non-profit Clarity Child Guidance Center as part of their in One in Five Minds awareness campaign. This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, and as always my goal is to provide you with content that I believe is helpful and relevant.
The One in Five Minds campaign was created not only to raise awareness about mental illness, but also to break down stigma. One in Five Minds’ goal is that no one will be afraid to speak up about mental illness and that all children in Bexar County Texas and beyond who need treatment will be able to access it, regardless of their ability to pay.
Fact: 1 in 5 children in the United State has some type of mental disorder.
Fact: Only 1 in 5 of children with a mental disorder actually receives treatment.
Fact: There IS something that we, as parents can do to ensure that our children receive the treatment that they need. It’s called mental health awareness.
Listen, I know that it can be a bit scary to wonder if your child has a mental disorder. Even though we would love them just as much if they did, coming to grips with the reality of the situation and how it might affect your day-to-day can feel like it’s too much to deal with.
But the reality is if your child does have a mental disorder, it is something you will have to deal with either way. The best thing you can do for each of you is to is educate yourself and your family as soon as possible and figure out the best practices for treating and managing your child’s illness. No doubt, this will give you both the best chance for a happy and healthy life.
Remember, a mental illness diagnosis is not the end of the world. Rather, it is knowledge.
The alternative to getting treatment is bleak. Research suggests that children who don’t receive treatment are more likely to drop out of school, turn to drugs and alcohol, end up in the juvenile system, and even attempt suicide.
If you are anything like me, I know you will do whatever it takes to reduce the risk of your child heading down any of those paths. The first step is knowledge. I want to do my part in spreading awareness about children’s mental health, One in Five Minds and how parents and kids can get the help they need without the stigmatisms associated with these illnesses in the past.
Below you will find a list of the mental health disorders that are common among children, along with some unique circumstances that might present some mental health challenges during childhood, as well as what you can do to help.
Common Mental Disorders That Impact Children and Teenagers
Anxiety Disorders. Although anxiety is pretty common (and even normal) at certain stages of development, frequent or sever anxiety may be a cause for concern. Anxiety disorders can include phobias (strong fears), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is characterized by attention difficulty, high levels of activity, and difficulty with impulse control. 3-7% of school-age children have ADHD.
Bipolar Disorder. Though not common in young children, it is possible for bipolar symptoms to manifest in kids as young as 6 years old. Bipolar Disorder is characterized by shifts in mood, energy level, thinking, and behavior (typically from high levels to low levels).
Conduct Disorder. Although many children may throw tantrums or otherwise “act out”, if they illustrate a pattern of disruptive and violent behavior as well as difficulty obeying rules, it may be a cause for concern. Talk with your teacher, guidance counselor or family physician if you worry this might be an issue for your child.
Depression. Sadness is not always a cause for concern. It is a normal and natural emotion. However, persistent sadness that is accompanied by a loss of interest in socializing, hobbies/interests, school, or family life may signal depression.
Eating Disorders. Children that suffer from eating disorders often manifest extreme feelings, attitudes, and behaviors regarding food and body image. Some common eating disorders include anorexia (not eating enough) and bulimia (overeating and then purposefully vomiting). It is important to note that someone can appear to be at a healthy weight, yet still be bulimic.
Oppositional-Defiant Disorder (ODD). Not to be confused with the “terrible twos” or the usual bouts of adolescent defiance, Oppositional Defiant Disorder is characterized by defiant behavior that lasts for more than six months and is excessive when compared to their peers.
Personality Disorders. A personality disorder is characterized by extreme, inflexible personality traits that may make it difficult for the person to relate to people and situations. Two common diagnoses are antisocial and borderline personality disorder.
Psychotic Disorders. A diagnosis of a psychotic disorder (such as Schizophrenia) occurs when someone has lost contact with reality. This can be characterized by hallucinations and/or delusional thoughts.
Substance Use Disorders. When someone repeatedly uses alcohol or drugs to the point where it interferes with daily functioning, interpersonal relationships, and social obligations (family, school, work), they may have a substance use disorder. This disorder is also linked with many other mental health disorders as people may turn to substance use as a coping mechanism.
Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior. It is critical that we take all thoughts of wanting to die or actual attempts to kill oneself seriously. People with suicidal tendencies may experience feelings of extreme sadness and hopelessness.
Unique Circumstances That Could Present Mental Health Challenges for Children
Bullying. As much as we may try to shield our children from it, bullying is a fairly common experience amongst children and teenagers. In fact, research suggests that 10% of children experience bullying regularly. Bullying (whether it is physical, verbal, emotional, or digital) can lead to a disruption of social and emotional development and can even lead some victims to attempt suicide. It is critical that we keep an eye out for signs that our children are being bullied or are bullying others.
Child Abuse. Millions of children fall victim to child abuse each year. Whether it is verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect the damage done can be everlasting. Don’t tell yourself they can handle it, get professional as soon as possible.
Military Families. When a family member is deployed or working in an often dangerous, even hostile environment, it can cause a significant number of challenges and an unforeseen amount of stress for the child at home.
So what can you do if you think your child might be at risk? You can start by looking for warning signs, common symptoms include:
Warning Signs Your Child May Suffer from a Mental Illness
Dieting or Exercising Obsessively
Extreme mood swings, crying outbursts, overreacting and other strong displays of emotion
Frequently missing/skipping school or work
Frequent or significant behavioral changes
Grief for a prolonged time after a loss or death
Hearing voices or seeing things that are not there
Inability to sit still or focus attention
Intense feelings of hopelessness
Saying (or behaving as though) they want to hurt themselves
Saying that they have been thinking about or considering suicide
Self-isolation and behaving in a distant manner
Significant changes in eating and sleeping patterns
Stuck in a state of confusion, anger, forgetfulness, edginess, just generally being upset
Sudden change in friends, socializing, and hobbies
Sudden lack of desire to go to school
The need to wash, clean things, or perform certain routines dozens of times a day
Unexplained cuts and burns
Unexplained feelings of sadness that don’t go away
I know what you’re thinking, aren’t these are all symptoms of being a teenager? Yes, many of them are, but watch to see if you are child exhibits several of these symptoms or if they are extreme, reoccurring or don’t go away in a day or two.
What You Can Do to Help Your Child
If you are concerned about someone in your life, there is something you can do. Your main goal will be to let them know you care about them and find out what is going on.
You can do this by:
1. Letting them you are concerned about them
2. Inviting them to talk to you about anything that might be on their mind
3. Assuring them you are not there to judge them but rather to help
4. Letting them know you will do whatever you can to help (even if that means connecting them with outside resources).
If you are unsure of how to help, feel free to speak with a doctor, a guidance counselor, or dial 2-1-1 to learn about local resources.
If you are local to San Antonio, I strongly urge you to reach out to the people at One in Five Minds and Clarity Child Guidance Center. The only non-profit treatment center in San Antonio, they have the largest mental health professional staff in the region and the most child therapists. They have both in patient and out-patient facilities and can assist you with making a diagnosis and starting a treatment plan. The folks I know who have used them all have terrific things to say about Clarity, I hope to take a tour soon and I can share even more info with the local San Antonio crowd.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
You can do your part to help spread awareness by sharing this post and any other information you think may help the people who need to read it. And even if you don’t think you know anyone who might, you never know who is struggling with (or knows someone who is struggling with) a mental health disorder but doesn’t even realize it. So go ahead and share you never know who you might reach at precisely the moment they needed help.
Something else you can do to show your support
We’re calling it #Maynicures
Paint your nails any color you like and paint one finger on each hand a different color (to represent One in Five Minds), then share a photo on social media with the hashtag #Maynicures #OneInFiveMinds
I’ll even stop by and like it myself!