How to Address Children’s Mental Health Issues


Addressing Children’s Mental Health – Photo credit: Today's Parent

Raising children can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life, but when it comes to understanding children’s mental health, it can also be one of the most difficult. The World Health Organisation estimates that around 20 per cent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have some forms of mental health problem, with depression, anxiety and ADHD being the most common. This can create a myriad of issues for parents and caregivers, including but not limited to difficulty in communication, inappropriate behaviour, and a lack of motivation or enjoyment in activities.

However, understanding children’s mental health does not have to be intimidating or overwhelming. By taking the time to listen to children, understanding their feelings and providing a safe environment for them to share their emotions, parents and caregivers can help provide support during difficult times. This can be supplemented by offering understanding and encouragement, and providing appropriate resources to help them cope with mental health issues.

It can be difficult to talk to children about mental health, but it is vital parts of helping our children develop into confident and resilient young adults. By understanding their mental health and taking the time to provide emotional support and resources, parents and caregivers can help to create an environment where children feel safe, heard, and loved.

Signs of Mental Health Issues in Children

Mental health issues in children are becoming increasingly prevalent in Nigeria. As such, understanding the signs of these issues is vitally important in providing support and promoting healthy mental development. According to Dr Fatima Akilu, a psychologist and director of the Neem Foundation, there are several tell-tale signs of mental health issues in children that can be identified if parents and guidance pay attention.

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One of the main signs of mental health issues in children is behavioral changes. Akilu states that sudden changes in behavior, such as aggression, isolation or loss of interest in activities, can be indicators of mental health issues. Other changes such as a drop in academic performance or an overwhelming fear of particular situations can also be signs of mental health issues.

Some physical signs can also be indicators of mental health issues in children. Dr Akilu suggests that if a child presents with recurring physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches or fatigue that cannot be explained by medical means, it may be a sign of mental health issues. In addition, the sudden onset of sleeping or eating difficulties can also be a sign of mental issues, as can changes in weight or appetite.

Difficulties with emotions can also be tell-tale signs of mental health issues in children. Akilu suggests that sudden outbursts of anger, feelings of depression or feelings of guilt or worthlessness can all be signs of mental health issues. Such emotions may also be accompanied by changes in attention, concentration or memory, as well as difficulties in forming relationships.

Finally, it is important to be aware of verbal signs of mental health issues in children. According to Akilu, statements such as “I feel worthless and out of control” or “I don’t know if I can go on” can be indicative of mental health issues. If a child appears to be struggling to express himself verbally, this can also be a possible sign of mental health issues and should be discussed with a qualified professional.

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In conclusion, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in children, in order to provide the support they need. Dr Akilu, suggests that behavioral changes, physical symptoms, emotional difficulties and verbal signs can all be indicators of mental health issues in children, and that it is important to take them seriously and seek advice from a qualified professional.

Strategies for talking to Kids about Mental Health

Mental health is an important topic that affects all individuals, especially children. Parents and guardians must take the initiative to talk to their children about mental health to ensure their wellbeing. The International Medical Corps (IMC) an organisation based in California and London, which provides aid to those in need, offers strategies to help adults effectively talk to kids about mental health.

The first step In the IMC’s strategy is to remain casual and conversational. Most adults understand that kids have short attention spans and often require conversations to be short and to the point. Additionally, it is important to speak to kids at their level and in terms that they can easily understand. Making the conversation too technical can be counter-productive and may yield negative results. Additionally, reducing the amount of jargons used during conversations can increase the likelihood of a child positively responding to messages that are being shared.

The second step in the IMC’s strategy is to use a non-judgmental tone, while speaking with children. Language should be positive and the conversation should remain solution-oriented. Moreover, it is important to remain patient and to respect the child’s opinion. No matter how challenging the conversation is, adults should take the time to listen and allow the kid to express their feelings.

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The third step In the IMC’s strategy is to prevent kids from feeling isolated. Every child deals with mental health issues differently, but no one should ever feel alone with those feelings. Adults should communicate openly and make sure the child knows that their feelings are valid, and that help is available. Furthermore, it is important to discuss issues outside of mental health and to encourage hobbies or activities that can help kids express themselves.

The fourth step in the IMC's strategy is to ensure that the conversations about mental health are as powerful as possible. Adults should bring up issues that matter to the child, such as feelings of sadness, stress, anger, or fear. Additionally, adults can help the child feel empowered by acknowledging their feelings and helping the child find ways to cope with the emotions they are experiencing.

The fifth step In the IMC’s strategy is to reinforce the importance of mental health. Children should be educated on the significance of mental health and why it is important to discuss. Adults should emphasize the value of open dialogue and the benefit that it has for the individual, family, and community. It is also essential to teach kids healthy coping mechanisms and positive problem solving skills.

Finally, the sixth step in the IMC’s strategy is to provide resources for the child. Mental health can be a complex issue and it is important to make sure that the child has access to professional help. In some cases, therapy or counseling may be necessary to help the child address issues.



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