Mental Health Problems in Children and Youth

    As kids grow into teens, they undergo not only physical but psychological changes as well – they become more emotional, they feel they are not properly understood, they are angry more often, they become aloof, and generally become moody, for the lack of a better word – and this is normal part of entering into teenage. Amidst this emotional rollercoaster, it is easy to confuse abnormal with normal, and that’s when we miss subtle signs of Mental Health Problems. As per an estimate, around 34 percent children and youth (between 13 and 19 years of age) suffer from depression, anxiety, or social dysfunction and about 10 percent have recurrent thoughts of suicide. This is serious!

    Mental Health Problems differ from Mental Illness. In that, whereas the former refers to a person’s inability to cope up with the stress at school, home, or work the latter indicates the persistent impairment in the person’s ability to function.  Stands to reason that Mental Illness is the next level of the Mental Health Problem – fortunately, most youths suffer only from the milder of the two and it’s not too late to take corrective action. But first let’s take a look at what are some of the most common Mental Health Problems that plague the youth:

    • Clinical Depression
    • Anxiety Disorder
    • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
    • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
    • Conduct Disorder
    • Psychosis and Bipolar Disorder
    • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder due to bullying

    And as if this were not enough, researchers have found that the Mental Health Problems in youth can often lead to or be exacerbated by substance abuse. It has been found that both, Mental Health Problems and Substance Abuse, have common risk factors (characteristics that raise the chances of occurrence of a problem), and one can be triggered by the other. What this means is that we need to identify and treat Mental Health Problems in youth at an early stage to prevent them resulting into a substance abuse issue. As a first step, parents can do the following if they feel that their child’s behavior is not normal:

    • Collect as much information as they can about the changes in child’s behavior
    • Speak with the child to encourage him/her to confide in parents
    • Let the child know they will help work out difficult issues together
    • Arrange to meet with a well-trained and trusted professional
    There are basically three lines of treatments for Mental Health Problem, and depending upon the severity of the child’s case, a professional Mental Health practitioner might recommend one or a mix of more. These treatment options are:
    • Counseling: Counselling your children and youths are typically provided at four levels:
      • Cognitive-behavioral therapy – This helps children recognize detrimental thinking patterns and behaviors and provides them with tools they need to change such patterns
      • Family therapy – This therapy takes a wholistic view of the family and works on changes needed in the familial dynamics to help the child through their mental health problem
      • Interpersonal therapy – This therapy helps children feel more comfortable interacting with others
      • Educational interventions – This might be required if your child needs help with learning how to manage the time in the classroom
    • Support Groups: Your practitioner might advise your child to seek the company of (and guidance from) teens who have been through or are going through what your child is going through. Your practitioner might also advise you to meet other families in similar situations
    • Medication: For most children, medication is generally not the first line of treatment that a practitioner would prescribe, and if indeed it is prescribed, it is almost always paired with one or more of the therapies mentioned above. Common medications are for controlling mood swings, anxiety, psychosis, or ADHD.