Children’s behavioral health is an important issue in the United States. As a parent, it’s important to identify mental illness causes and warning signs, then learn the proper approach for helping your child.
August 30, 2021
Children’s behavioral health is an important issue in the United States; more than 20% of kids and teens suffer from a mental disorder. As a parent, it’s important to identify mental illness causes and warning signs, then learn the proper approach for helping your child overcome their struggles.
The shared trauma of COVID-19 has had a drastic impact on the overall well-being of children — and everyone has been affected differently. Some kids, such as introverts or those who were being bullied, have preferred learning at home. Extroverted students who enjoyed coming to school and seeing their friends have suffered from a social standpoint. Children with learning disabilities and ADHD had to adapt to not having the same accommodations at home as they did at school.
Mental health can also be influenced by situational factors. Children who have chronic illnesses, for example, may become depressed from spending time in the hospital. Similarly, children notice psychological stressors at home. They can sense relationship and financial struggles and may feel helpless knowing they cannot improve the situation. Undocumented families in our community are also afraid of seeking services or medical help due to their status, which can negatively influence a child’s mental health.
In the digital age, children and teens constantly compare themselves to others. This can harm their confidence. Too much time spent on social media may lead to depression, as well as self-image-related problems like body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Consider limiting your child’s screen time and assuring them that the images they see from their favorite influencers are usually not reflective of real life.
It all comes down to trusting your gut, but a typical initial warning sign is a sudden shift in behavior. Look for indications of the following changes:
First, doctors must find the underlying issue that requires treatment. The most common mental health disorders in children and teens are:
Your child will need to complete a comprehensive evaluation by a professional mental health provider or physician. You may be able to start with your primary care provider, then be referred to Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) at Valleywise Health.
We will talk to family members first, then speak with your child to get their perspective. We prefer to meet with them alone at some point during the evaluation, because some children feel more comfortable telling certain things to a doctor than they would their parents. This helps us form a more accurate diagnosis.
Then, we rate your child on a numerical scale to get an objective measure of symptoms that helps us recommend the treatment they need.
Treatment most commonly comes in the form of traditional talk therapy, which uses psychiatry to teach children the long-term coping skills they need to be successful. If therapy alone is not enough, your child may be prescribed medication. Doctors will start at the lowest possible dose and very carefully monitor side effects to avoid any harmful outcomes. While many parents are hesitant to start their children on medications, it may be the only way to help your child feel better. Just like we need medicine for physical conditions, the brain also requires a little extra help sometimes.
Integrated Behavioral Health
Another great treatment option is integrated behavioral health, which addresses mental and physical health problems simultaneously. By focusing on whole-person health care, we can create a well-rounded plan for your child that allows them to thrive in any environment.
It can be difficult to see your child struggle, but with the right approach, you can be a crucial part of their improvement. Here are some expert tips on how to deal with a child who has a mental illness:
If you actively watch for mental illness causes and warning signs in your child and create a safe space for them to share how they feel, it will be easier to get them the diagnosis and treatment they need.