Myths about children’s mental health

December 9, 2021
Asifa Rapaiee

About the author: Dr. Nick has keen interest in the developmental psychology and has conducted research in the effects of anxiety in teenage students.

Children’s mental health is something that is often forgotten, many people not realising that children are just as likely to suffer from a mental illness as a fully grown adult. Children are developing and changing everyday as they grow into adolescence, so it may be that any changes in behaviour are overlooked as parents simply do not know how the signs of mental illness will appear in a child.

In addition to this, stigma surrounding mental health is still prevalent, meaning that many children and young people choose to hide their feelings and issues as they believe it to be easier and do not want those around them to think less of them. In a similar way, due to this stigma parents may also dismiss their child’s behaviours and fear getting a diagnosis of a mental health illness as they don’t want their child to be labelled.

Much of the stigma around children’s mental health stems from myths that are passed around in society, these myths need to be addressed as then maybe children’s mental health will become normalised. It has been found that the first onset of any mental health condition occurs within the first 14 years of a child’s life, and this is why it is important to diagnose and treat their illness while they are young, so they have the best chance of recovering and living a full life free from mental illness.

The myths around children’s mental health will be addressed in this blog post, we all need to work together to dismiss these myths and stop the stigma for good.

Bad Parenting Causes Mental Illness

People may believe that if parents raise the child with lots of love and affection then they will never struggle with a mental illness, and then on the other hand, a child that is brought up with neglect or lack of discipline will have mental health issues in the present or future. But mental health is not simple as this, while a child’s environment growing up is a factor in determining an individual’s mental health it is not the only one.

Mental health disorders occur due to a complex combination of genetics, biological and environmental factors and for many disorders, the exact cause can not be determined. While upbringing can contribute to the development of a mental health disorder it may not be the sole cause. Anyone can suffer from a mental health condition, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or background and so it would be wrong to blame the parents if a child does get diagnosed.

Mental Illness Is A Sign Of Weakness

Being weak minded has no correlation to the development of a mental illness, nor does how mentally strong someone is mean they will never suffer from one.

Mental illnesses make everyday activities and routines harder, for children this could include, socialising, attending school, keeping up with hobbies, exercising and completing homework. The fact that children with a mental illness still attempt to do these things while they are struggling, shows that they are very mentally strong. To go about day to day living with a mental illness while still trying to look after yourself and work on your recovery takes a lot of mental strength, and many describe individuals who are working to improve their mental health as being some of the strongest people they have met.

No child should have to deal with their mental illness alone, they need support and advice from those around them such as their parents, family, friends and trained professionals.

Children Are Too Young To Have Mental Health Problems

Anyone can suffer with their mental health at any age. The only difference between adults and children is that they may show different signs or symptoms for the same mental illness. In addition to this children may have not yet developed the right language to explain to others how they are feeling, so cannot express the fact they are struggling. If you notice any significant negative changes in your child’s mood, sleeping pattern, eating habits, hobbies or social life then they could be suffering with their mental health. It is important to try and talk to them in a non-judgemental way about this, simply asking how they are feeling and how you can help.

Any changes you do notice remember to note them down and communicate them to a professional, this way your child will be diagnosed more accurately.

Children Will Grow Out Of It Eventually

Mental health disorders are very unlikely to go away on their own, and just like any medical condition if left untreated then they will only get worse. Children and young adults are always developing, which makes it easy to mistake changes in mood or behaviour as just a phase or just part of growing up. However, just like with adults, if these changes are occurring over a prolonged period of time and it is affecting the child’s daily life in a negative manner, or if they act in a dangerous way towards themselves or another, they should be seen by a professional to get the help they need.

With the correct diagnosis, treatment and support children are able to recover from most of the common mental illnesses. Early detection of a mental illness means that the treatment is likely to be more successful as children and young people’s brains are more responsive to change.

Nothing You Can Do To Help A Mentally Ill Child

Having a child with any kind of illness, including a mental illness can be difficult for a parent or guardian. There are lots you have to learn, treatment plans to implement and recovery for the child will not always be linear. This can leave caregivers feeling exhausted and helpless at these difficult times.

This is exactly the reason that it is important to seek help from a mental health professional, parents won’t initially know how to help their child with their mental illness, but a professional will. They can work alongside the parents, giving them techniques and ways to best support their child.

Medicine Will Sort Everything Out

While medication can help a child with their mental health it is not the only option and sometimes other ways of treating the mental illness is preferred when treating a child. Medicine may be part of the treatment plan, however, talking therapies with the child and family unit is strongly advised. This will help the child with coping strategies and environmental stressors while also building stronger relationships and addressing problems head on through thorough discussion.

Different forms of treatment will work for different people, it is important to find what works for you and what you feel comfortable with.

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