A very sad reality is that innocent and sweet children suffer from severe and often untreated mental illnesses. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a host of other mental health concerns have evaded the lives of many children and adolescents today. According to WebMD, about 20% of children experience a mental health problem, while about 5 million children and adolescents suffer from a severe mental illness.
We must not forget about our substance related problems. Adolescents and even young children are beginning to abuse substances (street drugs, prescriptions, OTC meds, and house-hold products). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2013), about 6.5% of 12th graders reported using marijuana daily.
Despite these facts, a variety of myths still invade our society and has a rather strong effect on whether a parent, family member, or caretaker will consider seeking mental health treatment for their young loved one.
Having spoken to multiple families, parents, and caregivers, I have come to the conclusion that 5 myths prevent appropriate and timely mental health treatment:
- Children don’t have stress: Unfortunately, a lot of adults believe that ALL children have wonderful lives filled with Disney characters, fantasies, and no worries. This is sadly far from the truth for some youngsters. We must keep in mind that some kids experience many of the same issues that stress adults such as:
- Watching mom/dad struggle to pay bills
- living in less than ideal living conditions
- hunger or malnutrition
- discrimination and segregation
- bullying or harassment
- self-esteem issues
- physiological symptoms that interfere with daily life
- medical conditions such as diabetes
- Kids will outgrow their problems: The reality is that many kids will not outgrow their mental or behavioral health problems although some kids are able to manage their symptoms better as they age. If you see troubling signs, I encourage you to seek help. Kids never outgrow serious problems.
- No therapist can help me!: The idea that ALL mental health professionals are bad is incorrect and biased. There are quite a few good therapists and mental health professionals, but you must search for the best fit. While there are good therapists, there are also incompetent therapists as well. Search wisely.
- Every child has a problem: While most people have quirks and habits that may be bothersome, ALL children do not have mental health or behavioral problems. We don’t want to “normalize” a problem that can grow and progress into negative ways. If you see symptoms or signs that concern you, reach out.
- My child is too smart for mental illness: A lot of people believe that if you are intelligent, you are not mentally ill. This is one of the biggest mistakes and myths there is. Intelligence has zero connection to mental health. An individual could have severe bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, yet hold a PhD or run a company of over 600 people. We should not continue to be blinded by this myth. A child who is getting A’s in class, could also be suffering from hallucinations, depression, or attention problems.
It is important that we search for balanced, correct information. Mental health is becoming a very serous public health concern and we cannot continue to ignore it.
All the best
WebMD. (2013). Mental illness in children. Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/mental-health-illness-in-children.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). NIDA For Teens: Marijuana. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana.
Photo Credit: Hidden (Doriana S.)
Photo Credit: Hidden (Kinsey)
- Mental Illness in Kids: The Surprising Warning Signs (everydayhealth.com)