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LOOKING AFTER OUR CHILDREN'S WELLBEING, EVEN AFTER CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH WEEK.


By Pamellah Mutenga |


Looking after our children's wellbeing.

5 February 2021



By Pamellah Mutenga

This week is Children's Mental Health Week and from February 1 to February 7, we will be focused on the mental wellbeing of young people.

What is mental health?

According to Mayo Clinic, mental health is the overall wellness of how you think, regulate your feelings and behave. A mental illness, or mental health disorder, is defined as patterns or changes in thinking, feeling or behaviors that cause distress or disrupt a person's ability to function.

Mental health disorders in children are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills or regulation of emotions. These problems are distressing to children and disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school or in other social situations.

Mental illness in children.
Children can develop the same mental health conditions as adults, but their symptoms may be different. Know what to watch for and how you can help.

Mental illness in children can be hard for parents to identify. As a result, many children who could benefit from treatment don't get the help they need. Understand how to recognize warning signs of mental illness in children and how you can help your child.

Common disorders among children
Mental health disorders in children — or developmental disorders that are addressed by mental health professionals — may include the following:

Anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders in children are persistent fears, worries or anxiety that disrupt their ability to participate in play, school or typical age-appropriate social situations. Diagnoses include social anxiety, generalized anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Compared with most children of the same age, children with ADHD have difficulty with attention, impulsive behaviors, hyperactivity or some combination of these problems.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological condition that appears in early childhood — usually before age 3. Although the severity of ASD varies, a child with this disorder has difficulty communicating and interacting with others.

Eating disorders.Eating disorders are defined as a preoccupation with an ideal body type, disordered thinking about weight and weight loss, and unsafe eating and dieting habits. Eating disorders — such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder — can result in emotional and social dysfunction and life-threatening physical complications.

Depression and other mood disorders. Depression is persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest that disrupt a child's ability to function in school and interact with others. Bipolar disorder results in extreme mood swings between depression and extreme emotional or behavioral highs that may be unguarded, risky or unsafe.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).PTSD is prolonged emotional distress, anxiety, distressing memories, nightmares and disruptive behaviors in response to violence, abuse, injury or other traumatic events.

Schizophrenia.Schizophrenia is a disorder in perceptions and thoughts that cause a person to lose touch with reality (psychosis). Most often appearing in the late teens through the 20s, schizophrenia results in hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviors.

How can I help my child cope with mental illness?

You will play an important role in supporting your child's treatment plan. To care for yourself and your child:

• Learn about the illness.

• Consider family counseling that treats all members as partners in the treatment plan.

• Ask your child's mental health professional for advice on how to respond to your child and handle difficult behavior.

• Enroll in parent training programs, particularly those designed for parents of children with a mental illness.

• Explore stress management techniques to help you respond calmly.

• Seek ways to relax and have fun with your child.

• Praise your child's strengths and abilities.

• Work with your child's school to secure necessary support.

What are the warning signs of mental illness in children?

Warning signs that your child may have a mental health disorder include:

• Persistent sadness — two or more weeks.

• Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions.

• Hurting oneself or talking about hurting oneself. .

• Talking about death or suicide.

• Outbursts or extreme irritability.

• Out-of-control behavior that can be harmful. 

• Drastic changes in mood, behavior or personality.

• Changes in eating habits.

• Loss of weight. 

• Difficulty sleeping.

• Frequent headaches or stomachaches. 

• Difficulty concentrating. 

• Changes in academic performance.

• Avoiding or missing school.



What should I do if I suspect my child has a mental health condition?

If you're concerned about your child's mental health, consult your child's doctor. Describe the behaviors that concern you. Talk to your child's teacher, close friends, your spiritual leader i.e a Pastor, relatives or other caregivers to see if they've noticed changes in your child's behavior.

How is mental illness in children treated?

One of the ways to treat mental illness in  children include:

Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or behavior therapy, is a way to address mental health concerns by talking with a psychologist or other mental health professional. With young children, psychotherapy may include play time or games, as well as talk about what happens while playing. During psychotherapy, children and adolescents learn how to talk about thoughts and feelings, how to respond to them, and how to learn new behaviors and coping skills.

How can I help my child cope with mental illness?

You will play an important role in supporting your child's treatment plan. To care for yourself and your child:

• Learn about the illness.

• Consider family counseling that treats all members as partners in the treatment plan.

• Ask your child's mental health professional for advice on how to respond to your child and handle difficult behavior.

• Enroll in parent training programs, particularly those designed for parents of children with a mental illness.

• Explore stress management techniques to help you respond calmly.

• Seek ways to relax and have fun with your child.


• Praise your child's strengths and abilities.

• Work with your child's school to secure necessary support.

 

Finally, as communities of adults we do not seem to be able to get our heads around the need to change the ways in which we support children’s emotional development.

The increase in these extremely sad and distressing behaviours as experienced by children are communications by children to us as adults.

We need to be proactive in facilitating a cultural shift that sees physical and mental health as not requiring separate ways of self-care, but a unified approach.

We need to listen to what children are communicating the only way they now know how to, not pathologise their behaviour but take a shared responsibility and approach to supporting them move from an angst ridden place, to one of increased inner peace and self-care.

 

Pamellah Mutenga, is a blogger, writer, financial literacy Educator, speaker and executive coach focused on parents & ethnic leadership development, closing the ethnic achievement gap and breaking glass ceilings. She is the Co-Founder and director of Abundant Life Family Care. She believe that parenthood is a journey which must be enjoyed but it starts with happy parents. 



 

 


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