Even though Mental Health Awareness Month is in May, it’s an important topic that needs to be discussed, no matter what the month. Yet sometimes, mental health is not talked about for fear of stigmatizing the individual or family.
Mental health is very important, as many adults diagnosed with a mental illness had symptoms – some diagnosed, others not – when they were young. Studies have shown early treatment can help prevent more serious problems as the child grows up.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it’s often difficult to tell if troubling behavior is a normal part of growing up or an actual health problem that needs treatment by a health professional. Considerations include whether a behavior interferes with the child’s daily life at home, as well as at school and with friends.
The National Institute lists the following behaviors as considerations your child or teen might need help:
• Often feels anxious or worried
• Has very frequent tantrums or is intensely irritable much of the time
• Has frequent stomachaches or headaches with no physical explanation
• Is in constant motion and can’t sit quietly for any length of time
• Has trouble sleeping, including frequent nightmares
• Loses interest in things he or she used to enjoy
• Avoids spending time with friends
• Has trouble doing well in school or grades decline
• Fears gaining weight; exercises, diets obsessively
• Has low or no energy
• Has spells of intense, inexhaustible activity
• Engages in risky, destructive behavior; harms herself/himself, such as cutting or burning her/his skin
• Harms others
• Smokes, drinks, or uses drugs
• Has thoughts of suicide
• Thinks his or her mind is controlled or out of control, hears voices
Mental illness can be treated, so talk to your child’s school counselor and to us at Birmingham Pediatrics, especially if your child has demonstrated any of the above or following behaviors. Please be proactive and do not hesitate to talk with us, your health care providers, should you think your child is having mental health issues. The sooner we know, the sooner help can be given, the sooner we can support you and your child’s needs.
Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness)
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
Coping with Traumatic Events
In addition to our practice, here are a couple of resources you can access:
• If your child is thinking about suicide, get help immediately by calling 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
• I found the National Institute of Mental Health has many great resources and videos.
We are here to help you, so please confide and consult with us if you have any concerns about a member of your family.