All throughout #MentalHealthMonth, NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania is sharing helpful Q&A’s on various subjects. This week’s topic is children’s mental health. We asked Dr. Charma D. Dudley, PhD, a few questions about the importance of children’s mental health. Dr. Dudley is a licensed psychologist, the Associate Director of Behavioral Health Services at Beacon Health Options, and the Board President at NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania.
Parents and caretakers of children and adolescents need to know some key information as we recognize Mental Health Awareness month and specifically May 10th, which is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Did you know that children with untreated mental health conditions are more likely to dropout of high school, abuse drugs and alcohol, serve time in jail, and be unemployed as adults? It is also concerning that youth with untreated mental health conditions are more likely to suffer from physical disorders (medical conditions) as they grow into adulthood. Mental health conditions or psychiatric disorders are common and should be addressed early on, just like a parent would seek help for their child if they were experiencing symptoms indicative of diabetes, asthma, or obesity.
Parents need to know that:
- 1 out of 5 children has a diagnosable mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24.
- Depression and anxiety is very common in children and adolescents.
- Youth who have experienced stressful life situations and trauma such as physical and sexual abuse or severe neglect are more at risk for suicide.
- Exposure to domestic violence has a serious impact on a child’s self-esteem and overall emotional and social development.
There are many warning signs that may suggest that a child may have a mental health condition or may be in need of supportive services:
- Significant decline in school performance or attendance
- Continuous acting out, frequent rebellion, or aggression
- Thoughts and/or talk of suicide or threats to harm others
- Running away or threatening to run away
- Criminal activity or other destructive behavior
- Changes in appetite and/or sleep patterns
- Substance abuse
- Sadness, irritability, mood swings, excessive anxiety
If you see any of the warning signs, start with your child’s pediatrician or PCP and when necessary, consult with a licensed mental health professional with experience in child development and evidence based treatments.