These statistics are unsettling.
10% of children will experience a mental health problem, but it most cases, intervention comes much later than it should.
There are obvious speculations to be made about why this is – often children’s responses to mental health problems get dismissed as mere ‘naughtiness’ until the behavioural pattern becomes significant (or even dangerous) enough to warrant escalation by teachers or parents.
So What Are The Risk Factors?
- Long term illness
- Parents with a history of mental health problems, alcohol or substance abuse, or problems with the law
- The death of someone close to them
- Parents’ divorce or separation
- Being a victim of bullying
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Living in poverty
- Experiencing discrimination for their race, religion or sexuality
- Being a carer, or having other adult responsibilities
- Prolonged educational difficulties
This list is, of course, not exhaustive, and it is not to say that children who don’t experience these things don’t develop mental health problems.
What Are The Most Common Mental Health Problems in Children?
Children and young people can develop any of the same conditions that adults can, but there are some which have proved prevalent among children and young people. The following list contains some (though not all) of the most common, along with warning signs to look out for.
- Depression – as with adults, children with depression may withdraw from social activities, or experience difficulty concentrating in school (sometimes resulting in a dip in grades)
- Self-Harm – particularly common in teenagers, they may cut, scratch or burn themselves (often on the arms or legs)
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder – children may become reluctant to do particular activities, have difficulty concentrating, or become more fidgety or agitated
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – usually a response to a traumatic event or experience, which can be anything from a death in the family to abuse
- Eating Disorders – this can be purposely under-eating, over-eating, or purging. Look out for secrecy about food habits (either secret eating or hiding uneaten food), anxiety at meal times, or rapid weight loss or gain.