The term childhood mental health disorder means all mental disorders that can be diagnosed and begin in childhood. Mental health disorders among children are described as serious changes in the ways children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions. Symptoms usually start in early childhood, although some of the disorders may develop throughout the teenage years. The diagnosis is often made in the school years and sometimes earlier. However, some children with a mental health disorder may not be recognized or diagnosed as having one.
Childhood mental health disorders can be treated and managed. There are many evidence-based treatment options, so parents and doctors should work closely with everyone involved in the child’s treatment — teachers, coaches, therapists, and other family members. Taking advantage of all the resources available will help parents, health professionals and educators guide the child towards success. Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families can make a world of difference in the lives of children with mental disorders.
What to Do When Something’s ‘Off’
Most parents want to believe that their kids are doing okay, but if you feel that something is going on or if someone you trust — a teacher or counselor, a minister or other clergy person, or a coach — says ‘I’ve got a feeling about your child,’ pay attention.
The signs of mental illness in children vary by age and type of illness, with some psychiatric disorders appearing even in preschool years. However, two warning signs tend to cross over into all categories and signal that you should consult with a professional such as a psychologist or therapist:
- Extremes or unusual types of behavior for the age of the child, such as being significantly more hyper, aggressive, or withdrawn
- Sudden, hard-to-explain negative changes in behavior, such as a steep drop in grades, or no longer wanting to be involved in activities they used to enjoy